The World Bank’s African Regional Integration 2016 Index, lists EAC as one of the top performing blocs in the Continent. Such positive scorecard calls on us not to entertain complacency but rather to re-double our efforts. This is something the Assembly has always been keen on to achieve.
Ideally, time has come for the EAC to draw on its collective economic, social and intellectual resources to address the imminent challenges it faces. Of equal importance is tolerance by Partner States within the framework of the integration process, to tackle the region’s pursuit for peace and security, drought, Climate Change, the unemployment bulge and other pressing issues.
Similarly, there is need to resolve underlying currents preventing the efficient and smooth operations of the Customs Union Protocol. Time and again, EAC citizens contend with bureaucratic processes, administrative restrictions and misuse of the Rules of Origin principle among others, which hamper its implementation.
There is need to embrace industrialization by instituting supportive trade related policies and frameworks that grant Partner States the right to nurture nascent industries in order to develop their competitiveness and grow economies. The region is likely to benefit a great deal from operationalization of the Single Customs Territory resulting in increased intra-regional trade.
In this regard, we must emphasize building investor confidence, enterprise and creation of a conducive environment to spur trade. Under the Common Market Protocol, the EAC is yet to realize harmonization of its labour, employment, education and social policies among others, despite the political will at the top.
EAC citizens need to enjoy the tangible benefits of free movement of labour, services, goods and capital as well as rights to establishment. Few years ago for example, the Republics of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda abolished work permit fees thus encouraging workers to move freely in search of opportunities and implemented Inter-State passes to promote free movement of citizens.
The harmonization/approximation of Laws in the EAC context is also fundamental. A report of the EALA Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges on an Oversight activity on approximation of National laws in Partner States adopted by the Assembly in November 2016, indicates that Republic of Rwanda and Uganda have each harmonized 10 laws, Tanzania (6 laws), Kenya (4 laws) and Burundi (3 Laws). This is an area that can and should be improved.
With regards to the Monetary Union, EALA is keen to see the establishment of the EAC Central Bank to backstop fiscal and monetary harmonization. As an Assembly, we are ready to enact relevant legislation including the EAC 5 Monetary Institute Bill, the EAC Financial Services Commission Bill, and the EAC Surveillance and Enforcement Commission Bill.
It is also perhaps time the debate on the Political Federation, a stage we cannot wait to witness, was resuscitated. The Assembly would be keen to sensitize citizens of the region on this important pillar.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, a Pan-Africanist while addressing participants on the topic on Stability and Change in Africa at a Symposium (University of Toronto) on October 2, 1969 said:
“If a door is shut, attempts should be made to open it; if it is ajar, it should be pushed until it is wide open. In neither case, should the door be blown up at the expense of those inside."
Inevitably, differing levels of development among the Partner States, their respective economies, as well as differing policies in the various sectors, have and will result in short-term imbalances. However, it is how we manage these asymmetries in the distribution of benefits and costs, and the sensitivity we demonstrate when they occur, that will determine the constructive effect of integration. It is necessary for EAC technocrats to shorten the long tapes associated with bureaucracies and strive for service delivery. The Council of Ministers has for example, instituted a matrix that reviews status of implementation of the decisions arrived at – this is positive, but, a more results-oriented approach is necessary. Ultimately, the integration process is steadfast and there should be no going back.
By Rt. Hon. Daniel F. Kidega,
Speaker Of East African Legislative Assembly