, NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 1 – The integration of the East African Community made a major milestone on Thursday, with member states launching the East African Common Market Protocol.
In Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki led the business community and other citizens in ushering in a free market in East Africa.
The commencement of the Common Market will allow the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour in the region, a move that is expected to boost trade within member states.
However, even with the dawn of an open market in the region, regional leaders have agreed the effects of the Common Market will not be immediate, as a number of legal and regulatory issues still remain unresolved.
Speaking during the launch of the EA Common Market Protocol, President Kibaki said it would take close to two months before citizens could enjoy free movement within the region as national legislations remain in discord.
“I am directing the Attorney General to take measures to prepare a Miscellaneous Amendment Bill to be tabled in Parliament for their consideration,” President Kibaki said.
The Bill will allow various laws to be amended under the same Motion facilitating speedy implementation.
This is expected to extend similar national treatment to all East African citizens.
The President also called for a waiver of work permit fees charged to citizens in the region arguing it had been identified as a barrier to gratification of freedom of movement of workers.
“I am directing the Minister responsible for Immigration to waive fees on work permits for all East African citizens to facilitate those seeking work in Kenya,” he said.
The President expects the move to compel other regional heads to also consider waiving work permit fees.
Expectations in the region have been high with many anticipating they will feel the effects of a Common Market immediately.
East African Community Minister Amason Kingi however says a Common Market is likely to take full effect in 2015 as conflicting national laws continue to be harmonised.
“Implementing EAC’s Common Market is a process that will take some time to be felt across the region,” he said.
The EA Common Market Protocol was signed on November 20, 2009 to facilitate free movement of goods, services, capital and labour as the region seeks full integration.