Nelly Bassily | July 12, 2010
The East African Community’s Common Market came into effect on July 1 of this year. Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda will remove all barriers to trade. The region’s lengthy and complicated customs procedures have long been seen by businesses as a hindrance to cross-border trade.
However, it will likely be 2015 before the free trade zone is fully operational. “What we have achieved so far is only the basic legal framework that outlines what needs to be done,” said Juma Mwapachu, secretary general of the East African Community.
The agreement will allow citizens, products, capital and business services to move freely throughout the five countries. Mr. Mwapachu noted that some national laws still need to be harmonized with the regional agreement.
This paves the way for a common currency, which could be a reality by 2012. Yet some worry that not everyone will benefit equally. “Most Ugandans think their jobs will be taken over by their neighbour, Kenya,” says Frederick Masiga, business editor for the Daily Monitor newspaper in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Many businesses, however, support the Common Market. Jacqueline Mkindi is the executive director of the Tanzania Horticultural Association. “We are facing a lot of challenges as we cross the border ? unnecessary delays,” she says. As each country brings their customs procedures in line with Common Market protocol, such difficulties should soon be a thing of the past.
Ms. Mkindi also believes East Africa’s Common Market will give the region more leverage in international trade negotiations. “If we are together, we can negotiate as a region, and that will give us stronger muscles in talks with other economic blocs like the European Union.”
The East African Community Common Market protocol can be downloaded here:
A news item examining whether women in Uganda will benefit from the new regulations: “Getting the Common Market to Benefit the Common Woman” (IPS)
And a news story from Uganda a few days after the Common Market came into effect: “East Africa Common market yet to take off” (New Vision, Uganda)