A report on the status of East African Community integration agenda covering the period July 2016 to June 2017 will be high on agenda as ministers responsible for EAC affairs and planning meet in Arusha, Tanzania today.
The ministers’ session follows meetings of technocrats 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 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.
The Arusha meeting will also conside: 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 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 toward opening up opportunities for business and investment within the three blocs. But for the benefits to actually be realised, it must first be ratified by at least 14 of the 26 member countries.
By June 9, only 19 countries had signed the agreement and only Egypt had ratified it.
At the time, officials told The New Times that countries that had not put pen to paper were in the process of ratification.
A major concern that made it difficult for some countries to sign, or for those that had signed not to ratify quickly, was delay in concluding negotiations on critical annexes – on rules of origin; trade remedies and dispute settlement, and on dispute settlement mechanism – to the TFTA agreement.
But these were later concluded and all countries reportedly agreed that this paved the way for more signatures and ratifications for the agreement to come into force.
The ministerial session in Arusha will also discuss 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.