Multiple moves to fully integrate the East African Community (EAC) continue to gather momentum. The five-member regional bloc (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) have had two simultaneous breakthroughs in Rwanda and in Tanzania.
As negotiations aimed at putting in place a Common Market for the 120 million East Africans were being launched at Serena Hotel in Kigali, EAC and the Federal Republic of Germany were signing a Technical Cooperation Agreement in Arusha, which will facilitate Tax Harmonization within the Community.
Even the absence of a founder member, Tanzania, from the eight-day meeting (14-22 April) did not hamper progress. The largest member country, with the biggest population, had requested for postponement of the meeting to the end of May.
But as if to demonstrate how the rest of the members are keen on sticking to the earlier agreed upon schedule, the request was turned down. Instead Tanzania, the only other non-landlocked EAC country besides Kenya, shall obtain an open report, which will allow it to make its own contribution.
Partner States maintained the December 2008 deadline for the ending of negotiations, and left untouched too January 2010 as the time for launching the Common Market. Meanwhile the Germany-funded eight-year € 2m Tax Harmonization project will wind up in December 2015.
Indeed the securing of the money through the Germany Development Cooperation (GTZ) is a major step forward. Its timing could not have been better since harmonized tax laws and regimes are a necessary element of the Common Market Protocol.
That a country with Germany’s experience in integration matters is not only enthusiastic but is as well strongly supportive of the EAC initiative can only spur the process. As a member of the European Union, one of the most accomplished integrated entities on the globe, EAC stands to learn a lot from the union veteran by having it on its side.
What now remains is the show of total commitment by Partner States. They need to heed the call by Rwanda through her EAC minister that they must be resolute in pooling together resources to aid their competitiveness. Only then shall the region make meaningful strides towards escaping economic marginalisation that increases by the day as a result of globalisation.