7 October 2013

East Africa: EA Monetary Union Seen After 10 Years

WHILE the signing of the East African Monetary Union Protocol by the region's heads of state is scheduled for November, actual implementation will take at least 10 years before it can become fully operational.

East African Community Deputy Secretary General (Infrastructure and Planning) Enos Bukuku said that the transition period will see the creation of various institutions for purposes of surveillance, compliance and enforcement.

These institutions include an East African Monetary Institute to be created within two years of the signing of the Protocol, and which will be expected to evolve into an East African Central Bank. The creation of institutions and harmonisation of standards will pave the way for the issuing of a single currency in 2024, Dr Bukuku said.

A regional institution dealing with statistics will also need to be created, Dr Bukuku told the breakfast gathering in Nairobi over the weekend. The meeting was organised by the East African Business Council to coincide with the Nairobi International Trade Fair.

It brought together business leaders, officials from the East African Secretariat and Kenya government officials. Delivering her keynote address, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie said that while considerable progress had been made in the integration process, some challenges still remain.

"Even though partner states have established national monitoring committees to deal with non-tariff barriers, some of the NTBs have not been eliminated, leading to increased cost of doing business in the region." Mrs Kandie revealed that the region was currently working on a legal framework for the enforcement of issues to do with NTBs, which she said remains a major impediment to intra-EAC trade and amounted to a market-share war.

Kenya, she said, had tried to remove some of the persistent NTBS and would continue to act on the remaining ones. The main challenges to integration, Mrs Kandie said, involved remaining restrictions in the movement of labour and services, review of national laws to conform to the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol, and harmonisation of standards.

She agreed with suggestions that regional leaders should make use of video conferencing, saying that based on EAC rules, the absence of one minister meant that there would be no meeting. Dr Bukuku gave an example of an attorney general who had been unavailable to meet his counterparts for two months to discuss the monetary union protocol, saying video conferencing should help in solving such problems.

Giving an example of an area that needed harmonisation, Dr Bukuku said that in Rwanda it was the central bank that supervises the insurance industry. This is not the situation in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, where other regulatory agencies for the insurance sector exist.

He said further that all five partner states will soon embark on digital mapping, which will enable digital authorities to identify persons and businesses across the region. The meeting included panel discussions. Other speakers who addressed participants included the chairman of the East African Business Council, Vimal Shah, and East African Legislative Assembly member Peter Mathuki of Kenya.

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