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Progress Disappointing For Some Sectors

East African Community Common Market now a reality

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Jul 08, 2010

(eTN) The target="_blank">East African Community’s (EAC) Common Market is now formally in full effect since July 1, but already "old" issues are being raised again which remain unresolved and are causing several economic groups to wonder what the fanfare of change has been all about.

The aviation sector for instance, in particular Ugandan and Kenyan stakeholders, are claiming that non-tariff barriers, in particular in Tanzania, have not been removed and that discrimination against airlines of other member states remain in place, treating them as foreign airlines and compelling them to pay higher fees and delaying clearances while prohibiting landing in places not termed as international entry points. It is this latter issue which is raising the heat of the argument, as aviators have pointed out that within the spirit and letter of the East African Community protocols, the territories ought to shed the international descriptions and introduce regional approaches.

Charter and domestic airline management this correspondent spoke with in recent days were united in their call that in order to put life into the EAC, ALL non-tariff barriers must be removed, and flying from one member state to the other should be treated exactly the same way as air traffic within that member state where it is is managed. Comments by a Tanzanian aviation official that "harmonization is needed first on so many levels, including the issues of licences" were dismissed outright by aviators from Uganda and Kenya, who were swift to point to CASSOA, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, which was formed by the EAC to deal exactly with these issues, then adding "the Tanzanians simply do not want competition, and if they continue to treat us as foreign, we might have to take the matter to the East African court to get a ruling."

Meanwhile, it was also learned that jubilations about the shelving of work permits were also premature, as only Kenya and Rwanda had at present a bilateral agreement in place towards this effect, while Ugandans, Burundians, Kenyans, and Tanzanians wishing to work in the respective member states were still subject to a process of scrutiny, albeit according to the latest information now streamlined to get a decision within a month. Ordinary citizens, however, were seemingly unhappy about this situation, demanding to bring back the "old days of the first community" when free movement was a reality. It is understood that Kenya and Uganda are discussing a similar arrangement as the one in place between Rwanda and Kenya, but from sources at the EAC headquarters in Arusha it was also learned that Tanzania apparently felt no sense of urgency to speed up such agreement, again lending credibility to the claims by the aviators that there is a clear sense of reluctance they experience when dealing with Tanzanian authorities.

In a surprise move, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya then respond to the lamentations of the people of East Africa on the eve of the landmark day, when he announced unilaterally that Kenya would no longer charge any fees for work permits for citizens from the East African Community member states effective July 1, a development which will undoubtedly add pressure on the governments of the other countries to follow suit as speedily as possible.

Trade within East Africa, however, has greatly improved already since January of this year between the member states, when the six-month transition period towards July 1 began and all internal tariffs had been brought to zero. Investment flows too have shifted to within the East African Community with Kenya arguably the biggest investor now in neighboring countries.

East African Community Common Market now a reality
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