Source: Eye Radio
Some youth leaders in the region have questioned the seriousness of the East African economic bloc to integrate as envisioned in its charter.
The East African treaty of 1997 calls for the integration of customs union to facilitate inter and intra-regional trade, then a Monetary Union and eventually the formation of a Political Federation.
So far, the East African Legislative Assembly has passed several laws and the regional Council of Ministers has also established various Sectorial Councils to oversee policy issues in the regional integration progress.
But the impact on the ordinary persons is still wanting in terms of employment, trade, and free movement.
There are over 162 million people in the six countries constituting the East African community.
The youth say several barriers make it difficult for entrepreneurs to move and set up businesses in partner states.
The young leaders voiced out their concerns at the ongoing YouLead Summit.
Over 300 young people from South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have gathered in Arusha.
A South Sudanese youth leader, Joseph Oliver Wani raised the issue of multiple visas as one the challenges faced by South Sudanese within the bloc.
“There is the issue of coming from Juba to pay for visa in Uganda, then pay for another to enter Kenya. How can I benefit?” He stressed.
Nationals from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda use their national IDs for travel within the region.
But nationals from South Sudan and Burundi are forced to pay visa fees.
An entrepreneur from Burundi, Landry Mugisha, said this preferential treatment is unfair to the spirit of regional integration:
“How comes three countries have that possibility, and two other countries cannot? And that has lasted for several years. So obviously something is not right and it is about time we addressed the real issues.”
The establishment of the first East African economic bloc in 1967 also saw the establishment of common services such as universities, airlines, railways, and other infrastructure.
But the body collapsed in 1977 following the adoption of socialism by Tanzania and the rise of Ugandan President Iddi Amin, a dictator.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania divided assets and liabilities but explored potential areas for future cooperation.
A political commentator from Uganda, Andrew Mwenda, told the youth summit that it is unlikely that the region will integrate due to conflicting interests.
“So all the benefits of integration will go to Kenya, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda will be losing out. And that is always the source of conflicts,” he stated.
South Sudan was admitted into the East African Community as the sixth member state in 2015.
This is despite concerns raised by the public that South Sudan’s economy is not sufficiently developed to compete with EAC member states and could become a ‘dumping ground’ for Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ugandan imports.
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