Four years into the establishment of the East African Common Market Protocol, its implementation is expected to be close to the final stages, according to experts.
However, the process which is in its fourth year of implementation, has suffered a slow pace of the amendment of laws, rules, policies and procedures with just a year left to the intended actualisation of a fully-fledged Common Market.
The Protocol that calls for free movement of goods, labour, capital and services among East African Community (EAC) member states, came into effect on July 1, 2010 and was meant to be implemented over a five-year period.
According to the current status report on the Common Market, partner states have undertaken numerous initiatives through their relevant sectors and National Implementing Committees (NICs) to implement the EAC Common Market Protocol.
One of the EAC principal planning officers, Mr David Sajjabi, notes that there are three major challenges that are slowing down the implementation of the Common Market.
One, member states are taking long to amend national laws, Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs) are still a problem and there are delays to ratify other Protocols that contribute to the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol.
Uganda is said to be lagging behind on the implementation of laws that conform to the Common Market Protocol.
In an interview with Prosper magazine, on Uganda’s status of compliance, the director EAC Affairs at Ministry of East African Affairs (MEACA), Mr Lawrence Mujuni Mpitsi, said they are moving fast on amending the laws and hopefully target to be compliant by December this year.
He said MEACA will present the identified laws to other stakeholders in the relevant departments for debate on July 3.
“We have already identified more than 20 laws and are working with the law reform commission. Hopefully, by December this year we shall have amended them to suit the Common Market protocol,” Mr Mpitsi said.
The recurring NTBs make business costly in the region.
“Partner states have maintained and in some cases, introduced new NTBs that hinder the smooth movement of goods and services in the region,” Mr Sajjabi mentioned.
The updated EAC Time Bound Programme shows that 24 NTBs were unresolved; three were reported as new, 61 were resolved and eight new NTBs had been introduced.
The report shows that the five member-states imposed NTBs with Uganda carrying the majority ranked at nine, Kenya and Tanzania both imposed seven NTBs, Burundi imposed five, while Rwanda had the least imposed NTBs ranked at four.
Expounding on the issue of NTBs, Mr Andrew Luzze, the executive director of East African Business Council—a regional private sector umbrella body, says: “Member countries need to establish committees to address these NTBs and explain why they have been introduced.”