The Star (Nairobi)

East Africa: Tap Into EA Common Market, Says Kibaki

PRESIDENT Mwai Kibaki has assured Kenyan investors eyeing expansion in East Africa that the government is aggressively pushing for removal of non tariff barriers that are negating the common market deal.

Addressing the Kenyan diaspora in Burundi on Monday night, Kibaki, who is in Burundi on a state visit, said the East African Customs Union and Common Market Protocol provide for the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services across the five countries. This he said was put in place to accelerate inter-country trade, investment and regional development. "With a total population of over 120 million people, EAC provides a huge market for producers of goods and services in this region," said the President.

Kibaki reaffirmed the government's commitment to fully implement all aspects of the Common Market Protocol saying Kenya is actively encouraging other EAC Member States to remove any barriers to the trade agreement.

Although the deal has been in force for two years now, several non tarriff barriers have been reported especially on the Kenya-Tanzania border with traders complaining of harassment by customs officials flouting deal regulations or delays in clearance of goods at various regional points of entry. Other barriers that have been reported include numerous weigh bridges that create room for corruption and delays, the inefficiencies at the EA's biggest port of Mombasa and double taxation in some cases.

Other problems affecting the pact are the conflicting laws in various sectors that clash with the regulations of the common market deal. Harmonization of laws for sectors is yet to be complete with different industries at various stages of streamlining the laws. During the visit, Kibaki and President Pierre Nkurunziza, President Kibaki oversaw the signing of four memorandums of understanding that will provide for cooperation in the areas of tourism, information and communication technology, public service and police matters. Also, Kenya pledged to extend bilateral and technical support to Burundi in a number of sectors including defence, education, health, roads, diplomacy, agriculture and livestock.

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