EAC - Trade and Market Integration

Given the institutional foundations of the East African cooperation, some member States already traded with each other under the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa. The trade and market integration processes are described under the provisions of article 5 of the Treaty Establishing EAC, stating that a Customs Union followed by a Common Market and a final culmination into an EAC Political Federation are the gradual steps of integration in the Community.

A Protocol for the Establishment of the EAC Customs Union was signed by three Heads of State – Kenya, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania – on March 2004 in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania. Rwanda and Burundi joined the Customs Union in 2008 and started applying its instruments in July 2009. In November 2009, the Heads of States signed the Protocol on the Establishment of the EAC Common Market that entered into force on July 2010 after the ratification by Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania. Member States agreed to, eliminate tariffs, remove non-tariff and technical barriers to trade; harmonize and mutually recognize standards and implement a common trade policy for EAC; and lastly, ease cross-border movement of persons and adopt an integrated border management system.Furthermore, the EAC also has a Model Investment Code that serves as a reference guide for member States to align their national investment policies in order to improve the business climate and promote trade that it adopted in 2006.

In June 2015 the EAC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed to establish a tripartite free trade area (TFTA). Although the Agreement has been signed, it has not yet entered into force due to outstanding technical work on tariff liberalization, rules of origin, trade remedies, and harmonization on trade-related policies. The TFTA is expected to be finalized within a year of the launching, which would effectively make it the largest free trade area in Africa and it could boost intra-regional trade by as much as one third.[1]

In March 2016, EAC adopted a road map for member States to optimize the utilization of its resources to accelerate productivity and the social wellbeing of its people, called the Vision 2050. The Vision depicts a future East Africa with cohesive societies, competitive economies, and strong inter-regional cooperation that will transform the EAC region into an upper middle-income region based on the principles of inclusiveness and accountability [2]. The TFTA will thus be instrumental in achieving the stated goals and a decisive step towards continent-wide integration.

[1] United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Tripartite Agreement could boost intra-regional trade by one third (2016) http://www.uneca.org/stories/tripartite-agreement-could-boost-intra-regi... (accessed 1 July 2016).

[2] East African Community, EAC Vision 2050 (Arusha, Tanzania, 2016)