Nairobi — Non-tariff barriers in the East African region remains the biggest challenge for cross-border trade.
EAC Integration Secretary Barack Ndegwa laments that this has led to business people opting to trade with other countries in the continent and not with regional member states.
Ndegwa says this will continue to hinder integration and even the achievement of the intended monitory union, which seeks to have a single currency for the five partner states.
Some of the non-tariff barriers include blocking citizens from moving, studying, working, residing and generally doing business in East Africa.
"I know this may take some time but we will do our best as a country and ensure we deal with this issue once and for all. It has become a song and I think it's time we look at it seriously," Ndegwa said.
Ndegwa was speaking to journalists on Friday during an East African Business Council meeting in Nairobi, aimed at addressing the challenges hindering the full realisation of the East African Common Market Protocol.
"At the moment, the EAC region should be looking forward towards having the same growth rate and even establishing a single central bank and not fighting non tariff barriers," he urged.
Since signing of the agreement in 2010, EAC has only been able to achieve the protocol of customs union, common market and is now headed to implementing the protocol of monetary union.
"While we have made considerable progress in the in the integration process a number of challenges still remain. These challenges are the major impediments to intra-EAC trade," EAC Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie noted while officially opening the forum.
Kandie said national laws should be reviewed to conform to the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol.