THE objective of the East African Community (EAC) is to develop policies and programmes aimed at deepening cooperation among partner states for their mutual benefit. The partner states must establish a customs union, market protocol, a monetary union and ultimately the political federation.
Integration is geared towards mutually accelerated, harmonious, balanced and sustained expansion of economic activities across the five EAC states.
Reviewing recent media reports, the EAC secretary general Juma Mwapachu on a TV talk-show, noted that the EA customs union has been operational since 2005 and the market protocol that is second in the integration process was close to completion.
The protocol is expected to be operational by January 2010. After the protocol is operational, next will be the monetary union and later the political federation.
However, the question is: Are the EAC states ready and moving at a similar pace to achieve the integration?
We must draw our lessons from the defunct EAC which collapsed due to issues like divergence of economic policies. The community also collapsed because the states had the perception of disproportionate sharing of benefits and lack of adequate compensation mechanisms. There were also uncoordinated regional policies.
Already in the current integration we have challenges which include limited policy co-ordination and harmonisation.
The lack of uniform counterfeits policies and supplier constraints like lack of infrastructure. There is also the fear that there might be inequitable distribution of resources, bearing in mind the competitive advantage of Kenya. Given the foregoing, the EAC should explore the following, if we are to successfully integrate.
Encourage the private sector in all member states to network. This will promote cross-border trade, investment and make it easier to lobby for business-friendly policies.
Emphasise public awareness on the integration process. Decentralised structures could be used to achieve this. For instance in Uganda, district local councils should be involved in disseminating information to do with the EAC integration process.
The writer is a strategic management analyst at Kampala Motors
Use the private sector to drive EAC integration