By Luke Anami
Kenya, along with the East African Member States, is today (July 2) celebrating the second anniversary of the Common Market.
This year’s anniversary will be marked at the Malaba town — the border of Kenya and Uganda — where EAC Minister Musa Sirma is expected to lead the celebrations.
“We have achieved a number of successes, even though not to the expected levels,” Sirma said in an interview with The Standard.
“Kenya and Rwanda have waived work permit fee. Infact Rwanda only requires an ID and you can cross over. However Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi still have work permits in place. We expect them to remove them as the EAC integration continues to take shape.”
The Protocol on the establishment of the East African Community ( EAC) Common Market entered into force on July 1, 2010, following ratification by all the five Partner States — including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The EAC Heads of States signed it on November 20, 2009, which coincided with the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the revived Community.
The establishment of the Common Market is in line with the provisions of the EAC Treaty, which provides for “Four Freedoms”, namely the free movement of goods, labour, services, and capital, which are expected to boost trade and investments significantly, and make the region more productive and prosperous.
The Common Market represents the second stage of the regional integration process, the first one being the Customs Union, which was operationalised in January 2010. Next in the EAC integration process is the Monetary Union, which is currently being negotiated. The final integration process is ultimately the EAC Political Federation.
“The Common Market is expected to ensure goods and people move freely across the border. Kenya is a head in matters of Trade in services and this protocol is expected to spearhead the flow of capital and services within a 126 populations plus market,” Sirma explained.
But even as the EAC prepares to mark the second anniversary, non-tariff barriers still remains the most talked about hurdle towards full market integration. According to the World Bank, the EAC is the third fastest growing economic blocks in Africa. But the barriers have stalled the region from realising its full potential, in addition to causing friction among the five member states.
“The Government is in the process of eliminating Non-Tarrif Barriers. You heard during the Budget that plans are underway to reduce road blocks, and weighbridges along Kenyan roads,” he added.