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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins
"Following the rest of the world on the path to regional integration"
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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 13:49 GMT
East African Community reborn
Presidents Moi, Museveni, Mkapa
By East Africa correspondent Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi

The East African Community (EAC) has been launched 24 years after the economic grouping originally collapsed amid deep political differences.

The presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda met in Arusha on Monday at a formal ceremony.

The EAC aims to improve trade between the three countries by harmonising tax and duty regulations. It also hopes to strengthen the export bargaining power of the region, as it tries to compete with southern African countries.

Taxes and duties have hampered very much the flow of trade between the three countries

Financial consultant George Miseda

The remodelled EAC has been a long time coming. Its rebirth has been postponed several times, but on the eve of the launch, Tanzania's Vice-President, Dr Omar Ali Juma, warned Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda that they could not allow the community to collapse again.

Dr Juma said the new co-operation between the three countries should aim to improve the lives of the people, both economically and politically.

Red tape

Business people will be hoping that the bureaucracy and red tape which have caused them so many problems will now disappear as tax and duty regulations are harmonised.

According to George Miseda, director of the Nairobi financial consultancy Loita Assessment Management, this cannot be done quickly enough.

"Taxes and duties have hampered very much the flow of trade between the three countries. Harmonisation of that will go a long way to improve the volumes that we are seeing in the region currently," he said.

"Immigration regulations - that also needs to be harmonised. There is an East African passport already in place. That's a positive step, but a lot more needs to be done in that to allow human resources also to move freely between the three countries."

Manufacturing base

Kenya has the largest manufacturing base of the three neighbours and could increase trade in anything from food to car spare parts.

Kampala taxi rank
Small traders often have to pay bribes to cross borders
Tanzania has a wealth of minerals to sell.

All three countries have economic problems, but their leaders hope that by working together they will increase their export bargaining power in the region.

There are also plans to improve co-operation in areas such as the fight against drug-trafficking and in regional security.

And thousands of small traders, many of them women who cross between the countries buying and selling second-hand clothes and other goods, will be hoping that they will no longer have to pay a small bribe to get over the borders.

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See also:

31 Oct 00 | Africa
United States of Southern Africa?
04 Sep 00 | Africa
Tanzania delays free trade move
11 Jul 00 | Africa
United States of Africa?
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