PUBLISHED ON February 25th, 2015

Regional groupings plan merger

THE East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) will be merged to form a single continental Free Trading Area in 2017.

The resolve was among the issues discussed during the recently held, EAC Heads of State Summit Meeting in Nairobi, where the Secretary General for the EAC, Dr Richard Sezibera, extended his appreciation to the five regional presidents in supporting the proposed giant, future trading bloc.

“I would like to thank Your Excellencies for insisting that East Africa negotiate as a bloc, even during the most difficult moments.

The spirit you nurtured is evident in the ongoing negotiations for a continental Free Trade Area between EAC, COMESA, SADC and ECOWAS,” stated Dr Sezibera.

“We are in good position to benefit from an eventual Free Trade Area that will result in the establishment of an integrated market of 26 countries, with a combined population of almost 600 million people,” stated the Secretary General for the East African Community, which at the moment comprises of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.

Taking over the EAC Summit Chair, President Jakaya Kikwete had also maintained that; “To us in Tanzania, as it is the case with all East African Community partner states, regional integration is a matter of both principle and policy.

We are staunch supporters of the integration process and formidable believers in African Unity,” he said.

The proposed vast Free Trading Area (FTA) is expected to combine 57 per cent of the total African Union (AU) population; total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US 1 trillion, which accounts for over 58 per cent of the total continent’s GDP and half of the African Union (AU) in terms of membership.

As far as Dr Sezibera is concerned, the EAC should be ready to utilize the massive opportunities that will come with the Continental Free Trade Area which is expected to materialize very soon, in fact by the year 2017.

Meanwhile, in the past one year, the EAC total trade with the rest of the world maintained an upward trend by posting a growth rate of 8.3 per cent in 2013 compared to what was recorded in the previous 2012.

On the investment front, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the EAC increased by 6.6 per cent to 3.7 billion US dollars in 2013 compared to what was recorded in 2012.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had just handed over the Summit Chair, was of the view that the EAC has continued to perform encouragingly, with several critical milestones being achieved in the integration process, to meet the expectations envisaged in establishing it.

“The intra-EAC trade grew from 3.5 billion US dollars in 2009 to about 5.8 billion US dollars in 2013, pointing strongly to the possibility and opportunity for higher volumes of trade across our borders.”

“I commend our region’s business community for embracing the vast opportunities which come with integration, and encourage them to make greater use of them.

This will create more wealth and deliver more jobs for our young population,” he said. President Kenyatta added that the impressive growth and promise of intra-EAC trade has been accompanied and underpinned by greater regional connectivity through enabling infrastructure development.

Over the last two years, projects and programmes designed to promote intensive integration have been completed. The EAC has a combined population of 150 million.

Source: Daily News

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