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Policy gaps hinder EAC progress

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 15 – The lack of a harmonised trade policy in the East African Community (EAC) is hampering the ability of the region to consolidate the gains made under the Customs Union.

This impediment is further slowing the rate at which the EAC is implementing a number of policies such as the free movement of people, capital and labour as enshrined in the Common Market Protocol.

"While we have all the instruments provided here, we still don\’t have a common trade policy which basically means that we have not successfully harmonised the trade regime," acknowledged EAC Permanent Secretary David Nalo.

The implementation of the Common Market Protocol kicked off in July 2010 which provides for the free movement of goods, labour, services and the right to residence but this has not been successfully executed.

The reason is partly because the partner states have not fully aligned their national legal and regulatory laws and policies so that they can conform to those of the region.

The member states are currently focusing on consolidating the gains from the customs union but Mr Nalo made a case for an urgent and aligned trade region that would provide a platform where the provisions of the single market are successfully executed.

The PS reiterated the need for partner states to express their commitment to liberalise their services sector in order to open up the free movement of services and labour.

Such efforts, he said, would go a long way in deepening intra EAC trade which currently stands at 11 percent of the bloc\’s total trade volumes.

The sensitisation of the public to exploit the opportunities presented by integration is another initiative that can boost trade. For this reason, the Kenyan government is rolling out a Sh16million campaign to educate people about the process.

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The PS revealed that through the drive, which kicks off on March 17, they target to reach various stakeholders in 24 counties across the country in 100 days.

Mr Nalo spoke during a media workshop organised by Trademark East Africa, which is a non-profit organisation that aims to promote regional trade and economic integration in East Africa.

Among its objectives is to increase awareness about the integration agenda among the 130million-citizenry and assist the region to reduce transportation cost by 15 percent in the next four years.

The organisation\’s Chief Executive Officer Frank Matsaert explained that such a reduction would translate into a 10 percent increase in export values for the EAC countries and a 25 percent rise in the share of intra-regional trade.

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