Source : Daily Monitor. A senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed floating plans to make the three East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania reapply to join the Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) as a single East African state.
This means Uganda and Kenya will have to first disengage their current subscription to COMESA while Tanzania also disengages from SADCA.
Addressing auditors and accountants during the 10th annual seminar of Institute of Certified Public Accounts of Uganda at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, the East African Community and Ring State Division in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Denis Manana, said to solve the problem of belonging to a multiplicity of regional blocks in trade arrangement, it is imperative that the East African states belong to regional blocks using the East African Community umbrella.
Complaints have been raised by the private sector, stakeholders and government entities that belonging to different regional trade blocs is hampering trade development within East Africa, especially in terms of free movement of goods and natural persons.
Manana called for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Customs Union protocol and decisions regarding provisional and administrative measures that concern integration in general and in particular, those in respect to free movement of persons, labour, services, capital, and right of establishment of residence.
“There should be greater harmonisation and convergence of macroeconomic policies (fiscal, monetary and financial) as a prerequisite for monetary integration, focus on measures that spur growth of the productive sectors and development of supply capacity in industry, agriculture, tourism and natural resources, as well as infrastructure,” he said.
However, he points out that these challenges notwithstanding, and as a result of the strengthening of trade cooperation between the three countries has been picking up, growing from 6 percent in 1991 to 18 percent in 2002, on average. Manana said:
“Overall though, the levels of trade still remain low, with Kenya continuing to register a trade surplus vis-à-vis the other two partners. However, the economies of the other two partners, Tanzania and Uganda, have been growing on an average of 5 percent in the last ten years as Kenya’s has been lagging.”
He said recent data on the overall trend in economic activity in the region shows that in spite of some bottlenecks, things are looking up.
“Trade in goods is growing as is trade in services such as transportation, communication and financial services (banking, insurance, accountancy, brokerage). Kenya’s economy is picking up, growing at an average of over 1.5 percent in the last three years. The sectors that have registered significant growth include agribusiness, fisheries, ICT (particularly telecommunications), financial services, tourism and mining,” he said.
Regional integration and cooperation is increasingly being recognised and appreciated around the world as a vehicle for development.
“However, to put the rationale for regional integration in perspective, we need to remind ourselves of the dire state of affairs in Africa,” Manana said.
He revealed that the Report of the Commission on Africa (among other surveys and studies, such as the annual UNDP Human Development Reports) gives a familiar picture of what is Africa today.
“In terms of its share of global trade and total GDP, the whole of Africa, the second largest continent with more than 650 million people, contributes a paltry 1 percent and 1.8 percent respectively, a drop from about 4 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively in the early 1980s,” he said.
Africa hosts the largest number of LDCs in the world and is the only continent where poverty has been increasing in the last twenty years.