16 May 2017

East Africa: A Full in Tray Awaits Presidents At EAC Summit

A tight agenda awaits the East Africa Community Heads of State Summit when it meets in Dar es Salaam this week, for a meeting that has been postponed three times.

This is amid speculation of a falling out between some of the leaders on the direction the bloc should take.

That the Summit will not be postponed this time is assured. The EAC Secretariat has sent out an invitation to all the delegates to attend the meeting on May 20. It will be preceded by meetings of technocrats responsible for various sectors over three days before the Council of Ministers meets a day before the Summit to prepare resolutions for the heads of state to consider.

Top on the agenda is giving direction to the Community after what has been a year of sluggish implementation of projects. The presidents are expected to track the progress of integrating South Sudan and decide whether it will be fully integrated into the EAC as from July. Already South Sudan has nominated its members for the East African Legislative Assembly and the East Africa Court of Justice as required under the process.

The presidents should give direction on whether South Sudan should appoint various commissioners to the various commissions of the EAC and on nomination of a representative for an executive position at the EAC Secretariat.

Another key issue is agreeing on a new funding model for the bloc's budget. EAC ministers except Burundi have agreed to maintain the existing equal contributions with sanctions for default. The alternative is a hybrid financing mechanism, with a certain percentage of equal contributions and a separate proportion based on equity, solidarity and equality.

Also on the table is the phasing out of importation of used textiles and footwear, which was to be undertaken over three years starting in 2016.

The presidents are also expected to pass into law Bills passed by EALA, which include the EAC Customs Management (Amendment) Bill 2016, the EAC Appropriation Bill 2016 and the EAC Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2016.

The heads of state are also expected to discuss the report on the Status of Implementation of the EAC Common Market where one of the pending matters is mutual recognition of business certificates from each other and elimination of double taxation for companies operating across borders.

At the recent EAC Council of ministers meeting, the EAC ministers requested Tanzania to expedite the process of reviewing its legal framework and finalise internal consultations on harmonisation of work permit fees by September.

The request followed a recent move by the Tanzanian government to reduce residence permit fees to $500 from $2,000 for EAC citizens seeking to stay and work in Tanzania. Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have waived work permit fees but Tanzania and Burundi are yet to ratify the deal.

The other key issue to be discussed is the report of the Joint Security Assessment Mission to the Republic of Burundi.

The Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe, which has split EAC members down the middle, is not expected to feature prominently on the agenda, with Tanzania insisting the impact of the agreement be fully assessed.

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