By Winnie Osika
The East African Community (EAC) partner states are negotiating modalities to allow free movement of professionals in accounting, legal and architecture services as required under the common market protocol
The three sectors will join seven others in business and professional services, communication, distribution, education, financial, tourism and travel related services and transport services whose professions are free to move freely within the region.
The five EAC partner states have agreed to harmonize the movement of these service sectors by the end of 2015 since the coming to effect of the common market protocol in July last year.
The common market provides for the free movement of all factors of production including goods, labour, services and capital but the partner states agreed on gradual liberalisation of the sectors, mainly the services sector.
The EAC region has witnessed a significant growth in the tourism sector, construction and Information and Communication Technology sectors after the coming to effect of the common market.
Partner states have also engaged in cross-border investments especially in the banking and insurance industry as well as in retail distribution services.
“The common market provides for ‘four freedoms’ allowing free movement for all factors of production, namely free movement of goods, labour, services, which will significantly boost trade and investments and make the region competitive, productive and prosperous,” says Mr Barrack Ndegwa, Integration Secretary, ministry of East African Community, Kenya.
Kenya commercial bank (KCB) and Equity bank are among banks that have taken advantage of the common market which have seen those open branches in other partner states.
In addition, Kenya and Rwanda have fully freed movement of workers between themselves which has seen exchange of labour in the two states.
Kenya has also eliminated work permit fee for EAC citizens and has speed up the process of applying for work permits to work in other EAC states which only take 30 days.
Despite the achievements of the EAC common market, the region is still facing implementation hurdles which have slowed down the full integration process.
The biggest challenge remains the implementation of the EAC Common market protocol where partner states are expected to domesticate institutional, legislative and regulatory changes.
The region is also faced with inadequate and weak legal and regulatory framework and in some instances; new laws have to be developed.
Partner states are also complaining of lack of a broad based regional services private sector platform to increase public private consultations with the services sector.
Poor infrastructure within the corridors connecting EAC has also contributed hugely to loss of billions of shillings as a result of delays.
To effectively harmonize trade and infrastructure development between EAC and other countries, the region has partnered with COMESA and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to form the tripartite community.
“We welcome donor assistance to address these challenges and to assist in developing policies that spur regional integration and development of our economies,” Mr Ndegwa told a regional workshop organized by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Nairobi.
Speaking during the occasion, ICTSD senior associate Mr Miguel Rodriguez said weak negotiation capacity of most developing counti5res and especially the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) was a major concern that needs to be addressed urgently.
“The private sector and other non-state actor though SSA are confronted with a myriad of related and overlapping efforts to improve and develop their services sector,” he said.
“This includes trade in services negotiations on multiple fronts taking place at the same time as various crosscutting and sector-specific policy and regulatory reform processes.”