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Kenya leading EAC to global market

By Phylis Kandie | Jul 17th 2015 | 3 min read

NAIROBI: When President Kenyatta recently hosted a high-powered US trade delegation at State House, Nairobi, he told them that Kenya should not be looked at as a single market because it is a gateway to the wider Eastern Africa market. "Kenya will play a role in encouraging other countries in the region to partner with investors with good deals," he said.

President Kenyatta, who is the 6th GES co-host alongside US President Barack Obama later this month, made an excellent and even magnanimous point. Kenya is a member of the East African Community (EAC), the regional intergovernmental organisation that also comprises Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda (all of them landlocked) and Tanzania and has South Sudan knocking on its door.

Kenya is EAC's biggest and most advanced economy and the delegates of the 6th GES would do well to heed President Kenyatta's words. We are not a stand-alone economy – we are increasingly becoming integrated in a region where we play the role of principal gateway. Regional integration is a hugely significant component of global integration. Three of the EAC's landlocked nations depend on Kenya for the transportation of their exports and imports that go by road and sea.

The EAC nations are at various stages of the pluralism and democratic transition that has swept across large swathes of the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall. All five EAC nations are agreed on taking integration to the next level and are committed to pluralistic forms of ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

The GES delegates are entering East Africa via Kenya and they will find a community that is well on its way to integration. Among the EAC's achievements of recent years in the surge towards a more perfect union are moving beyond the initial threshold of mere cooperation to ever higher levels of integration, with the objective becoming a political federation with a common currency.

Key EAC achievements and successes include establishment of the Customs Union; the Common Market; convertibility of the currencies of the three original members (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania); and capital markets development and cross-listing of stocks. There is free movement of stock. The EAC has also embarked on joint large and transformational change cross-border infrastructure projects, for instance the Arusha-Namanga-Athi River road. The reduction of national trade barriers proceeds apace.

There have been major harmonisation initiatives – for instance of EAC axle load (or vehicle weight) limits. Also harmonised are the operations of the ministries of Finance and the Central Banks, with member States preparing and presenting their budgets in close consultation and on the same Budget Day. The community's institutions include the East African Court of Justice, the East African Legislative Assembly, the EA Science and Technology Commission, the EA Kiswahili Commission, the EA Health Research Commission, the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency and the EAC Chief Justices Forum.

The Community's security and defence cooperation is a major component of regional security and encompasses joint military exercises by EAC partner states' defence forces. An EAC forum brings together the top police and intelligence (both criminal and espionage) officers and coordinates peace and security matters. Cross-border crime in the region is monitored to international standards and often foiled, including human, weapons and wildlife products' trafficking. Delegates to the GES will be delighted by the diversity of entrepreneurship in a fast-integrating East Africa and the ingenuity of this region's young entrepreneurs. There are also great opportunities for partnerships and collaborations and investment.

The EAC countries are home to 70 Ashoka Fellows, or social entrepreneurs, creatively engaged in transformative interventions in health, the environment, human rights, and economic development in four of the Community's member countries – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Delegates will also find international organisations at work boosting youth entrepreneurship in the EAC countries, for instance the Youth to Youth Fund. Since 2010, Y2YF has supported youth entrepreneurship at the community level across Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, helping young people set up micro-enterprises in niche markets.

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