The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: MPs Pass Law to Ratify EAC Monetary Union Protocol

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday approved a law that will enable Rwanda to fully ratify the East African Community (EAC) Monetary Union Protocol that aims at strengthening economic cooperation through a single currency for all member countries of the EAC bloc.

The five countries making up the bloc are targetting a July 1, 2014 deadline to finish ratifying the protocol signed by Heads of State in November last year in Kampala, Uganda.

Though the Rwandan Senate will have to approve the country's ratification of the protocol as well, the approval by the Lower Chamber of Parliament has boosted the government's hopes that the ratification may happen in line with the forthcoming deadline.

After the MPs had passed the law on Wednesday, the Minister for Finance and Economic planning, Amb. Claver Gatete, told The New Times that the chamber had done well in meeting the government's request.

"That's what we requested as government and we are glad they have done it," Amb. Gatete said in an interview, shortly after attending the plenary session in which the MPs passed the law to approve the protocol's ratification.

The Monetary Union is the third stage of the EAC integration process after the Customs Union and Common Market protocols, whose implementation deadline has been set for next year.

According to the EAC Treaty, Political federation, under which the region is envisaged to have one federal government, will be the last protocol that will be signed to realise the bloc's full integration.

But attaining the bloc's single currency-which is expected to enhance intra-EAC trade by eliminating exchange rate volatility, reducing transaction costs and facilitating capital flows within the region among other economic benefits-will be achieved after ten years.

It is during the ten-year implementation period that the EAC partner states will have to set up various institutions that remain a prerequisite before the single currency can be in circulation.

The institutions include the East African Monetary Institute, East African Bureau of Statistics, East African Surveillance, Compliance and Enforcement Commission (to be responsible for surveillance, compliance and enforcement), and East African Financial Services Commission.

MP Amb. Zeno Mutimura, the chairperson of the Lower Chamber's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, said the MPs have approved the ratification of the Monetary Union Protocol partly because they fully understand the steps for its implementation.

"At this level I think people understand the benefits; at least at our level, that's why we have ratified it," he said in an interview.

The legislator explained that having a single currency that would connect millions of consumers joined in one single bloc is "very important" and said that more and more people in the EAC would finally understand the move's benefits and fully implement steps towards attaining the currency.

With a population of about 140 million and a combined GDP of more than $100 billion, experts say the EAC bloc is set to be more attractive for foreign direct investments.

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