PUBLISHED ON January 15th, 2015

Fairness should guide East Africa integration

The East African Community (EAC) is a great idea that has borne much fruit and is probably destined to go far.

After the unfortunate collapse of the original EAC in the 1970s, the bloc was revived by regional leaders in the 1990s and arguably remains one of the rare achievements of the much-maligned Kanu regime.

With time, citizens of the now five countries have come to appreciate the benefits of having the bloc.

Interestingly, even a perceived reluctant integration candidate like Tanzania has grown to be Kenya’s most important trade partner with locals especially in the north of the country benefiting immensely from the market provided by Nairobi city.

However, the bureaucrats perhaps with the connivance of politicians, do not see the inevitable: that you cannot stop the progress of the economic bloc, even if you were to delay it with a raft of administrative or non-tariff barriers (NTBs). This is because in a voluntary bloc, reciprocity is the driving principal.

From Tanzania blocking Kenyan tour vans from accessing Tanzanian game parks to Kenya—in apparent retaliation—blocking Dar buses from dropping tourists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), we have seen it all.

None of them is wrong or right: there is nothing like free lunch in a bloc though. Yesterday, we reported that regional countries are negotiating to allow airlines to operate freely from all countries without restricting carriers from emanating flights from the country of origin.

That will probably cut the rent enjoyed by the likes of Kenya Airways, but it might as well make the economies more efficient due to lower fares and commercial interaction. It might as well boost the aviation industry and local tourism.

The message here is that inasmuch as you would think you are benefiting your country and probably your voters by protecting what is unviable in the long term, you are not helping either your country or the bloc.

We need to have champions of integration within the respective bureaucracies for advantages of the process to accrue swiftly.

Nevertheless, the fact that we need to integrate does not shield any country seeking to take advantage of the process to short-change others or benefit a small elite at the expense of broader benefits.

For instance, no country should allow the other to flood it with imported goods including sugar purporting it to be domestic. In other words, let fairness and integrity guide our journey to integration.

Source: Business Daily

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.