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State of the Community: Bureaucratic delays, missed targets hurt integration

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East African Community presidents from left, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

East African Community presidents from left, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame during the 14th Heads of State Summit at Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, November 30, 2012. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI  Nation Media Group

By JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, December 1  2012 at  16:30

In Summary

  • East African presidents on Friday decided to postpone key issues — mainly the Monetary Union and admission of South Sudan and Somalia to the bloc.
  • The Heads of State, in the summit in Nairobi, directed that the deadline for the establishment of the East African Monetary Union be pushed to November next year — a whole year after the earlier set target.
  • While the presidents did not give South Sudan the final nod to join the bloc, they approved a verification report on the country’s bid.
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The decision by East African presidents on Friday to postpone key issues — mainly the Monetary Union and admission of South Sudan and Somalia to the bloc — has left the region’s journey to full integration looking longer than ever, and exposed the bureaucratic delays that continue to haunt the plan.

The Heads of State, in the summit in Nairobi, directed that the deadline for the establishment of the East African Monetary Union be pushed to November next year — a whole year after the earlier set target.

The final report on the monetary union was not submitted to the EAC Heads of Summit for approval, with the presidents directing that the document be presented during an extraordinary summit in April 2013.

They set a new date — November 2013 — by when the Monetary Union Protocol should be signed.

While the presidents did not give South Sudan the final nod to join the bloc, they approved a verification report on the country’s bid.

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete said the EAC Council of Ministers should start negotiations with South Sudan following the completion of the verification work.

They also directed the Council to look into Somalia’s application to be admitted to the fast-growing regional body.

Government officials and delegates attending the Summit decried delays in implementing the EAC Common Market Protocol signed in July 2010, saying this was slowing economic growth in the region, which is reeling from delays in removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade.

While the five EAC partner states have in principle agreed to remove NTBs by December 2012, in the absence of a legally binding framework, action largely depends on the willingness of the different countries.

So far, this push has suffered hiccups as businesses continue to incur huge costs arising from weighbridges, roadblocks, poor infrastructure, unnecessary delays at border posts, and lack of harmonised import and export standards, procedures and documentation.

Frustration is growing among landlocked countries like Rwanda, which are paying a heavy price for the unnecessary and costly delays caused by NTBs like weighbridges and port inefficiencies in Kenya.

Over the past seven years, reforms in the EAC have focused on simplifying regulatory processes, such as trading across borders and starting a business in the region.

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