“Political openness is crucial for EAC partner states to realize integration opportunities.
“There is also a need for countries to further push progress implementation of the Common Market Protocol,” said Bernd Schmidt, Deputy Programme Manager of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) when speaking to journalists from the six EAC member states who are on a media tour.
The EAC Common Market Protocol, among other things, provides for free movement of goods, people, labour, services and capital across partner states.
“Economic growth requires free movement of people and goods,” he insisted.
According to Schmidt, trade barriers such as tariffs should also be addressed to promote regional trade which has maintained a downward trend for over four years.
He attributed the decline to EAC countries preferring to import various goods including those for the pharmaceutical industry, which are mostly from Asia, North America and Europe.
Schmidt said it was high time governments in the region started supporting small local manufacturing firms.
He said by supporting local firms, governments will be creating jobs as well as improving the welfare of the people.
He was of the view that for the EAC integration to prosper, member states should stop creating disputes since countries were now behaving like competitors, according to media reports.
Chief Executive Officer of the East African Business Council (EABC) Lilian Awinja said despite the challenges, EAC integration has facilitated movement of goods and people across the region.
She linked the outcome with improvements in infrastructure, especially roads.
Awinja said the Single Customs Territory (SCT) has also recorded a number of achievements which include clearing of goods at entry points, and tax assessment and declaration in destination countries.
STC is the highest stage towards achieving a full-fledged customs union and seeks to eliminate restrictive regulations on goods moving from one border to another. It was adopted in 2013 by the EAC Council of Ministers.
Stephen Analo, EAC Principal Customs Officer-Capacity Building, said the STC has successfully reduced documentation by 80 per cent whereas the turnaround time from Dar es Salaam to Bujumbura, Rwanda and Uganda has been reduced to between 3 and 5 days while previously it was taking between 18 and 21 days.
“As a result of the STC, all the ports within the region operate 24/7. Human interventions have also been reduced,” said Analo.
The EAC media tour, which focuses on the implementation of SCT, Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) as well as challenges and successes of the East Africa pharmaceutical industry, is supported by GIZ, EABC and the EAC secretariat.