The new East African Community Co-operation was created in November 1999. It constitutes of six member states namely; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi and Southern Sudan. It is recognized as one of the fastest growing economic blocs in Africa. The East African Community was first established in 1917 as a customs union between Kenya and Uganda, followed by the joining of Tanganyika (Tanzania) in 1927. The East African Community didn’t have any new members from that time until 2009 when Burundi and Rwanda joined and then finally South Sudan in 2016. The initial forming of the first East African Community was based on High Commissions initiative by the respective colonising authorities.
The first truly East African Community economic integration was established in 1967 and collapsed in1977, due to political disparities. The current East African Community treaty began in 1999 and was enforced in July 2000 following ratification, building upon the old East African Cooperation agreement which was signed in 1993. Currently there are several protocols that are aimed at elevating the customs union to a Common Market.
Harmonization of Monetary and Fiscal Policies– This has included convertibility of the partner states’ currencies, harmonization of banking rules and regulations, harmonization of finance ministries’ pre- and post-budget consultations, regular sharing of information on budgets, and reading of budget statements on the same day.
Transport and Communications- The main objectives of the agreement are to facilitate interstate road transport through reduced documentation for crews and vehicles at border crossings including harmonized requirements for operation licensing and customs and immigration regulations. This has made it easier and quicker for traders from one member country to trade with traders from other member countries.
Education and skilled Labour- East Africa community aims at creating centres of excellence in the community to provide top quality training and education aimed at meeting current and future skill needs and technical innovation in the regional bloc. Free visas are provided for students from member states to study at any university within this community.
Joint Tourism Promotion Initiatives- The East African Community partner states signed important protocols that will help in promoting East Africa as a single tourist destination and will result in attracting more tourists and increase the contribution of the tourism industry to the East African economy. A single East African Tourist Visa for the EAC countries of Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda has been available since 2014.
Industrialization- There is a lack of substantial evidence with regard to industrialization in the East African Community regional bloc. It can logically be concluded that this is due to the sheer size of the economies of these countries, which are too small to attract commercially viable inward investment due, for example, to the poor infrastructural development.
Imbalanced Benefits– There are different priorities within the East African Community. This has led to the failure of ensuring that all countries benefit equally from the regional integration. For example, as Kenya’s currency appreciated while the currencies of other countries’ depreciated. The countries in this economic bloc have different growth accelerations.
Custom union- The East African community failed to advance the custom union. EAC protocol required that Kenya eliminates its tariffs on imports originating in Tanzania and Uganda respectively with immediate effect on the first day of the protocol implementation. However, charges of gradually declining taxes remain for 859 products originating from Kenya that are exported to Tanzania and 426 products originating from Kenya that are exported to Uganda, based on the asymmetry principle.
Monetary union- The east African community (EAC) has not met its 2012 target of agreeing on the formation of a monetary union. Following two years of negotiations, it was expected that a protocol would be approved at EAC heads of state summit at the end of November; which would have started the process of monetary integration. However, the east Africa community was unable to come to an agreement and the monetary union was removed from the summit agenda.
One cannot reach a conclusion on whether the successes and failures outweigh each other. In as much as the East African Community is one of the fastest growing regional groups in Africa and the world at large, it faces challenges including the lack of financial aid and limited physical infrastructure and human capital. However, the vision to be a stable and politically united East Africa is still effective. For the East African community to achieve more positive results such as major infrastructural development there is need to deepen the regional integration to a common market.
Featured image | East African Community heads of state | wikimedia commons
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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