Status of integration on agenda as EAC ministers meet in Arusha

A report on the status of integration for the period July 2016 to June 2017 will be high on agenda as ministers responsible for EAC affairs and planning meet in Arusha, Tanzania on Friday.

A report on the status of integration for the period July 2016 to June 2017 will be high on agenda as ministers responsible for EAC affairs and planning meet in Arusha, Tanzania on Friday.

The ministers’ session, caps a series of preliminary meetings including the session of senior officials as well as the coordination committee comprising Permanent Secretaries earlier this week.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community, arrived in Arusha Thursday morning for the meeting.

A statement from the EAC Headquarters, in Arusha, indicates that among the items on the agenda of the meeting are: consideration of report on the implementation of previous decisions of the Sectoral Council of ministers responsible for EAC affairs and planning (SCMEACP); and consideration of a progress report on the status of implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol.

The Protocol on the Establishment of the EAC Common Market entered into force on July 1, 2010 after ratification by all the then five Partner States: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

It provides for four freedoms – free movement of goods; labour; services; and capital – which are expected to significantly boost trade and investments and make the region more productive and prosperous.

Tripartite arrangement

The Arusha meeting will also consider: a progress report on the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite arrangement.

In July, COMESA-EAC-SADC countries moved a step closer to forming a larger free trade area when ministers and senior officials from member countries met in Kampala, Uganda to resolve issues that prevented them from ratifying the ‘historic’ Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) first signed by African leaders on June 10, 2015, in Egypt.

The tripartite arrangement aims to create a larger common market across half of Africa.

It is regarded as a critical step in opening up opportunities for business and investment within the tripartite bloc. But for the benefits to actually be realized, it must first be ratified by at least 14 of the 26 member countries.

To-date, 21 countries have signed and two (Egypt and Uganda) have ratified the agreement.

At the time, officials told The New Times those countries that had not put pen to paper were in the process of ratification.

A major concern that made difficult for some countries to sign, or for those that had signed not to ratify quickly, was delay in concluding negations of critical annexes – on rules of origin; trade remedies and dispute settlement, and on dispute settlement mechanism – to the TFTA agreement.

But these were then concluded and all countries reportedly agreed that this paved the way for more signatures and ratifications for the agreement to enter into force.

The ministerial session in Arusha is also going to consider the draft fifth EAC development strategy (2016/17-2020/21); key priority areas for the financial year 2018/19; and the progress report on the development of a roadmap for the integration of South Sudan into the regional bloc, among others.