Members of the civil society in East Africa have expressed concern about the slow implementation of the regional Common Market Protocol.
This, they said, was denying the citizenry enjoyment of the full benefits of regional integration.
The civil society organizations and members of the private sector were attending a workshop convened in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on their role in the implementation of the two-year-old Common Market Protocol.
Speaking during the meeting early this week, the Secretary General of the East African Community, Richard Sezibera, called for change of attitude among the civil society and the private sector as a stimulus to ensuring compliance in implementing the Common Market Protocol.
Sezibera observed that Common Market’s realisation would take a lot of hard work from all stakeholders in order to achieve the intended results and reap the envisioned mutual benefits.
He recalled that one of the reasons that led to the collapse of the former EAC was lack of participation by the civil society and private sector.
Presenting the status of the implementation of the Common Market, the Director of Social Sectors at the EAC Secretariat, Mary Makoffu, said that the partner states had made considerable progress with regard to the free movement of goods.
However, she acknowledged that the implementation of the other provisions of the Common Market Protocol was lagging far behind.
“National committees are providing the much needed guidance in terms of monitoring implementation of the Common Market Protocol provisions and educating the public on the same,” she said.
According to Makoffu, the review of immigration laws by Kenya and Rwanda is a significant contribution to the free movement principles.
Meanwhile, Sezibera expressed dissatisfaction with the slow involvement of women in the economic and leadership positions and called for a reversal of the trend. “We need more women in leadership positions involved in our activities,” he said.
Al though the protocol was envisaged to play a significant role in the economic development of the region, it still faces hurdles such as non-tariff barriers by member countries.
The barriers – especially road blocks and corruption – were among the challenges cited as hindering the smooth flow of goods and services.
The Common Market is the second stage of EAC integration and represents a deeper state of cooperation. It provides for free movement of goods, persons and labour, the right of establishment and residence and free movement of services.