Business and Finance

CEOs disgruntled over EAC union laxity on integration

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The excitement and optimism that ushered in the revival of the East African Community 13 years ago has been replaced with anxiety and pessimism.

Regional industry captains and the business association leaders say not much has been done to reduce the cost of doing business, eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs), and enforce recommendations that will spur regional business.

“We have been speaking about NTBs for years and nothing has changed,” Ms Jennifer Mwijukye, the secretary general, Uganda Freight and Forwarders Association, said yesterday at the EAC CEOs’ meeting in Kampala.

She continued: “We want commitment from member states and not situations where one country just introduces a requirement like a cash bond without a notice.”

Ms Agatha Juma, representing the Federation of Kenya Tourism, said: “EAC lack seriousness in not just addressing tourism related issues but commitment to make EAC a regional hub for tourists.”

Ms Betty Maina, representing the Kenya Manufacturers Association, however, said member countries should guard against retaliation because that worsens the situation.

Reacting to frustrations of CEOs, EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera, said: “There has been an improvement in a number of reforms in the partner states; removal of restriction on the free movement of labour and over 36 non-tariff barriers (NTBs) have been resolved, but a lot needs to be done”
Last year, the CEOs forum identified infrastructure as one of the most critical enablers towards a successful regional integration, taking into account trade, movement of labour, tourism and agriculture.

The summit of heads of states focused on the bottlenecks in infrastructure and has a made them priority projects to be looked as a region.

To address integration issues, he suggested the public-private sector partnership arrangement to give the private sector a chance to participate. He also challenged the private sector to stop lamenting about corruption but take action.

“We spend much time talking about corruption but do little yet this is something which has to be fought,” he added.

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