The East African Community could soon become the fastest growing economic bloc in the world having eliminated almost all trade barriers thus creating a more favourable environment for doing business. EAC, which is second to ASEAN as the most progressive bloc, has embarked on implementation of a single customs territory that was launched on August 25 in Kampala.
Under the single customs territory, tax on goods imported into the three countries will be paid at Mombasa and trucks weighed only on crossing the border. In theory, all the roadblocks from Mombasa (Kenya) to Kigali (Rwanda) will be eliminated and the weighbridges reduced from nine to three at most.
During a regional meeting in Kigali, Rwandan capital on Monday 29, Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) agreed to launch of a single tourist at the next infrastructure summit – potentially in Juba, South Sudan early next year. The summit heard that a reduction in the number of roadblocks and weighbridges had reduced the time and cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to the interior.
The cost of transporting a 20-foot container from Mombasa to Kigali is also expected to drop from $383 to $193, resulting into savings of about $45 million annually. Rwanda and Uganda have given signals of their intent to back Kenya’s railway corridor linking both countries, including South Sudan to the Kenyan coast.
Amongst themselves, the three member states also agreed to make movement of their people easier and create a favourable working environment. Ugandans will use their voter’s card as travel documents to Rwanda and Kenya because they do not have national ID cards. Students without voters’ card can use school identity cards. The application of entry coupon will accompany the identity cards. The coupon will act as an entry stamp.
According to officials that attended the meeting, $100-visa with 90 days validity will be paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions. Each state will take a share of $30. However, the country that processes the visa entry will receive an extra $10 in an administration cost.
Uganda also decided to waive work permit fees following similar moves by Kenya and Rwanda. Citizens of the two countries will still need to apply for permits but they will be issued free-of-charge.
However, the developments come at the heels of complaints from Tanzania and Burundi that they are being left out of major projects yet the EAC Treaty demands that all member states move together.
Earlier, in August only during only Heads of State from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda launch talks on the single customs territory in Kampala, Uganda, at an extra-ordinary meeting.
The three states claim Tanzania and Burundi have always dragged their feet, and therefore can rejoin at their own pace.
Since the August meeting in Kampala only leaders and officials from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have been attending EAC meetings.
Tanzania’s isolation, however, puts in limbo its $4.7 billion railway line project linking Dar, Kigali and Burundi, whose construction is scheduled for 2014.
In a statement issued by Tanzania’s ministry of East African Cooperation, Dar said the ongoing tri-lateral talks between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda were against the EAC protocol.
Dar administration said that the Kenyan, Rwandan and Ugandan leaders were in contravention of Article 7(1) (e) of the EAC protocol. “Even though this Article allows member countries to enter bi-lateral or tri-lateral agreements, it is a must that issues under consideration for implementation under this arrangement are fully discussed and agreed upon by all member countries,” read the statement.
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