The East African Community (EAC) is implementing regional integration agreements designed to eliminate tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) promoting regional integration faster than other regions.
The remarks come as EAC is preparing to launch a common market this year that will allow free movement of capital, labor and services within the region.
Speaking at the launch of a joint report on regional integration by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African Union Commission (AU) and African Development Bank (AfDB) last week, a group of experts observed that regional integration achievements on the Continent are uneven.
In particular, Coalition for for Dialogue in Africa (CoDA), a regional group that supports the AfDB’s drive for commercial and monetary integration in the continent’s sub-regions says that while progress in East Africa has been widely praised, there are mixed results in West Africa.
“East Africa used to be lagging behind, but it moved much quicker towards integration than the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS ),” said Abdoulaye Bathily , CoDA’s coordinator.
According to Bathily, ECOWAS, which was once considered as a leading organization in terms of sub regional economic integration, has longed been bogged down by a series of civil wars during the past 20 years.
“ECOWAS could have gone further, but its progress was hampered by civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. The integration agenda has been long delayed. But now ECOWAS is regaining momentum,” Bathily said.
The report says, EAC progress has also made in promoting investments and trade. “There is significant leveraging of regional programmes as well as development of regional infrastructure,” the report reads in part.
Statistics from EAC Secretariat indicate that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the region almost tripled from $692 million in 2002 to $1.8 billion in 2007.
For this year, trade officials at EAC have said they expect intra- regional trade to move to 14 percent by end of the year, up from 12 percent when the Customs Union was launched on January 1, 2005.