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Economy

EAC states’ reluctance to open borders hurts regional trade

East African Business Council chairman Jim Kabeho. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
East African Business Council chairman Jim Kabeho. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

Reluctance by individual East African Community (EAC) countries to fully open their borders is hurting trade and growth of local manufacturing firms, a regional business lobby group has said.

East African Business Council acting chairman Jim Kabeho said partial harmonisation of trade rules by the six EAC states has hurt expansion in regional trade.

Some EAC countries, he said, are still erecting non-tariff trade barriers at official borders such as refusal to recognise certificate of origin for some goods, more than seven years after the Common Market Protocol was enforced on July 1, 2010.

The pact allows for free movement of goods, people, labour, services and capital among the six partner states — South Sudan being the latest member.

“There are many positions we (EAC) have agreed upon which are not being implemented. Individual countries do not want to give away their authority to the common market,” Mr Kabeho told the Business Daily in Nairobi.

“We do not have a common market per se as far as I am seeing in trade. We still have official borders being non-tariff barriers.”

Kenya and Tanzania, for instance, continue to disagree partly over certificates of origin at the Namanga border.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers has blamed the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority’s for demanding that some of the products from Kenya be registered, re-labelled and retested.

The suspicion among EAC states, Mr Kabeho said, has provided room for an influx of cheaper goods available in the region into the bloc, largely from China and India.

“They (regional exports) are being hit by those foreign products and that’s a very big challenge,” he said. “While this is there, do we reciprocate? Can you take anything to China unless it is food?”

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