The East African Community (EAC) has drafted a policy it will use, if approved, to roll out the last stage of the integration process, officials say.
Although the signing of the monetary union has been delayed by one year, the region should be fully federated by 2015, according to the integration timeline.
The region now is on the verge of full integration, should the five EAC presidents sign the monetary union protocol next month, as expected.
According to the EAC Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera, consultations on the political federation blue print will be complete by the end of October.
"The issue of the EA monetary union will be on the agenda of the Council of Ministers in November, and it should then be taken to the heads of state summit later in the year," Sezibera said.
In general, analysts have hailed the EAC's integration, describing it as a model. The region has one of the biggest deposits of resources that, if well utilized, could economically and socially transform the welfare of its citizens. Germany, through it international development agency, GIZ, is funding several activities of the integration.
An East African Business Council Position paper indicates different opinions about the journey so far, especially in the achievement of the first two protocols and their impact on the impending monetary union.
A majority of opinions (97.8%) suggested that partner states should abandon their existing currencies for a new EAC common currency.
They recommended that the regional monetary unit be made a parallel currency in the region based on a weighted average of EAC currencies and allow it to circulate alongside existing partner states currencies.
But 67% of EAC businesses are doubtful if the monetary union will work, because eight years since the commencement of the customs union and three years after the monetary union, the two key protocols have yet to be fully implemented.
With a GDP at about $90 billion USD, the integration process is expected to bring in more opportunities for businesses community in the region and the population in general. Statistics indicate that the region grew by 3.7% from 2010 to 2012--more than the global or sub-Saharan average.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) also grew from $2.6 billion in 2010 to $3.8billion in 2012. Meanwhile, intra-regional trade rose from $500,000 to $2.3 billion, approximately four times growth, despite a general negative perception about Africa, according to Jesca Eriyo, the EAC deputy secretary general. "We need to focus more on our positives rather than negatives," said Eriyo.
Civil society in the region is also pushing for the maximum utilization of the young population that will be productive in the near future to strengthen social cohesion and build a foundation for home-grown solutions.
Several joint efforts meant for solving challenges among EAC partner states, especially in the area of infrastructure, will enable the region to become more competitive.
The most tremendous development this year has been the pronouncements by the heads of state of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, who have vowed to rehabilitate the roads connecting the three EAC member states and building a railway line running across the three states. This move has also been welcomed and given a boost by the donor community as they are partly funding infrastructure development in the region.
Mathew Bizimana, the president of the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association, says even the 1.4% Kenya railway development levy should not be considered a new barrier unless the money generated from it is misused.
"The development of a railway line in the region should be given a major priority because if they don't do it now, its cost will be higher" Bizimana said.
The region is still faced by non-tariff barriers, including arbitrary impositions such as cash bond requirements by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) prior to clearance of goods. The KRA also requires that tea from Uganda destined for Mombasa auction market be stored at customs bonded warehouses in Mombasa.
In addressing these challenges, the partner states have the opportunity to transform the region into a business-oriented and self-sustainable economy.