The Heads of State of the East African Community (EAC) met on Thursday in the Tanzanian commercial capital Dar es Salaam during which they reiterated their commitment to a united front on areas of mutual interest.
The 17th extraordinary summit of the EAC Heads of State was held against the backdrop of the signing in Brussels by Rwanda and Kenya of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a trade deal that had been under discussion between the European Union and EAC for more than ten years.
The two countries’ signing of the trade deal with the EU was in line with an earlier commitment by the EAC member states to finalise the process this year.
Nonetheless, it came at a time when some EAC partner states had expressed fresh reservations on the EPA, with particularly Tanzania pointing to the uncertainty around possible implications of the UK’s imminent exit from the EU (following the Brexit vote) on the proposed deal.
While the other partner states can still access EU markets under the so-called Anything But Arms trade preferences regime in the event that EAC states have not ratified the EPA framework by October, Kenya would lose tariff- and quota-free access to EU as East Africa’s largest economy is not considered a Least Developed Country, like the other EAC partners.
However, Thursday’s EAC Heads of State summit resolved that the bloc will continue to speak as a united voice on EPA and asked EU to allow the Community a further three months to seek clarification and forge consensus on the trade deal.
The leaders also asked the EU not to punish Kenya as a result of delayed signing of the EPA by EAC – as a bloc – which goes to show that the partner states want the best for each other in pursuit of shared interests.
Now, this is just one of the recent examples that demonstrate the EAC leaders’ commitment to continuously seek to forge a common position as a bloc on critical issues with view to improving their economies and lives of their people.
Another example is the region’s united stand on the need to ban imports of used clothing as this continues to undermine efforts to grow local textile industries across the bloc.
Speaking with one voice means that the EAC is able to engage the rest of the world from a relatively stronger position, with the outcome likely to be far more favourable to the people of the region than if every individual partner state were to go it alone.