EAC organs dragging feet on integration
Saturday July 28 2018
Only a few recommendations — 16 per cent — of the 5th EAC Secretary General’s Forum held in Burundi in 2017 have been implemented.
Lilian Awinja, executive director of the East African Business Council (EABC), said this week that 43 per cent of the recommendations were partly implemented, 36 per cent were not implemented and 5 per cent had no update at all.
“These figures are worrisome,” Ms Awinja told the 6th Annual EABC Secretaries General Forum in Nairobi.
The annual forum reviews the work plan and progress reports on the Consultative Dialogue Framework for private sector, civil society and other interest groups, considers translating the resolutions into policy and defines the success stories of the dialogue process.
The 6th Forum featured about 100 representatives from the private sector, civil society, professional bodies, academia, media, EAC organs, development partners and other interest groups.
In the Bujumbura forum in June 2017, the parties agreed on 33 recommendations, including the establishment of a One Network Area (ONA) to reduce the cost of communication through harmonisation of roaming charges, and one airspace to facilitate air transport.
Introduced in October 2014, the ONA was meant to harmonise tariffs on mobile voice calls, SMS and data transmission within the EAC. Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda removed roaming charges, making mobile calls between the three countries local.
This led to a 400 per cent increase in the volume of phone calls — a direct benefit to EAC citizens and businesses operating across borders.
The second phase was supposed to have seen telecom operators revise SMS and data charges downwards. Rwanda began the process in August 2015.
Tanzania later expressed interest in joining the ONA and so did Ethiopia, which is not a member of the EAC. South Sudan is also part of the ONA.
The 5th SG’s Forum also recommended that decision makers fast-track the harmonisation of labour laws and policies to ensure uniformity in all partner states and establishment of one-stop border posts to facilitate the Common Market. The one-stop border posts have helped increase access to markets and facilitate the movement of cargo in the region.
Physical infrastructure and automation of government trade processes like Customs have complemented each other to reduce the cost of doing business, boost trade and create jobs.
The Bujumbura forum also directed EAC organs to adopt a regional framework for social security co-ordination to allow portability of savings and develop a labour market information system to facilitate the exchange of workers and allow portability of social security savings across the region.