Kenya takes over EAC bloc leadership
Published on: April 24, 2021 11:16 (EAT)
Kenya has now taken over the leadership of the East African Community (EAC) bloc with new Secretary General Peter Mathuki assuming office on Friday. The country is now the official lead for the customs union with President Uhuru Kenyatta being elected the new Chairperson for the bloc last month. Kenya will be immediately tasked with restoring confidence in the integration of the region following recent years of cracks to harmony. At the top of concerns for the bloc is the promotion of trade which had become distressed under the strife of vagaries including the COVID-19 pandemic. EAC’s business community represented by the East African Business Council (EABC) has for instance outlined policy priorities which have since been presented to the new Secretary General. “As the industry leaders we have analyzed key trade and investment barriers, delaying East African businesses to take advantage of the EAC customs union and common market,” said John Rusagara, an EABC director who represented EAC Chairman Nick Nesbitt at a policy meeting held on Thursday. The business representatives have lobbied for the finalization of the comprehensive review of EAC common external tariffs (CET) to boost industrialization and regional value chains and eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Further, the industry leaders have sought for the operation of the committee on trade remedies to handle trade disputes alongside the finalization of regulations on free movement of services and service suppliers. Moreover, the new EAC Secretariat has been urged to harmonize domestic taxes and the domestication of the region’s airspace. Peter Mathuki takes over the leadership of the EAC on the backdrop of new adversities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cross-border trade barriers for instance emerged last year including the non-implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for truck drivers, un-harmonized COVID-19 testing charges and delays in getting test results. The issues put together with pre-existing difficulties such as inadequate laboratory facilities to test aflatoxins in cereals and intermittent cargo scanner breakdowns to compound woes on cross border trading. The EAC is Kenya’s leading export destination representing about 23.5 per cent of all exports at Ksh.140.4 billion according to data from the 2020 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). The EAC is on the flip-side a key source market with data from select countries showing imports from Tanzania and Uganda to Kenya stood at Ksh.27.7 billion and Ksh.38.5 billion in 2019. The value of intra-EAC trade was meanwhile Ksh.704.6 billion ($6.5 billion) in 2018 but represents less than one fifth of the region’s total trade. EAC’s population is estimated at 177 million persons and has a GDP of Ksh.20.9 trillion ($19 billion).