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Basic Facts About the East African Community

Regional co-operation in East Africa goes more than 100 years back. Already in 1917, Kenya and Uganda formed a first Customs Union, which was joined by the then Tanganyika in 1927; it was followed by the East African Common Services Organisation that lasted from 1961 to 1967. The first attempt at forming an East African Community between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda started in 1967 and failed in 1977 as the three countries could not agree on a number of important economic and political issues.

A longer period of relative inactivity followed the dissolution of the first EAC, but in 1993 the three countries undertook a renewed attempt at regional integration by forming the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation.
The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community was signed in November 1999 and entered into force in July 2000. The newly founded EAC took its seat in Arusha, Tanzania. In June 2007, the Republics of Burundi and Rwanda signed Treaties of Accession to the EAC.

In contrast to the first attempt at an East African Community, which was predominantly government-driven, the new EAC expressly confirmed the crucial role of the private sector and civil society: the principles that govern the objectives of the community shall be “people-centred and market-driven” (Article 7 of the EAC Treaty).
The road map of the EAC foresees the gradual progress from a Customs Union towards a Common Market and Monetary Union, finally culminating in a Political Federation.

The Customs Union was established in 2005 and the Protocol for the establishment of a Common Market was signed in November 2009, on time for its final launching in 2010. Subsequently a Monetary Union is to enter into force by 2012, and the ultimate goal will be a future Political Federation of East Africa.

 Roadmap to East African Integration

The cross border movement of persons and goods has been eased through a number of measures, e.g. the introduction of the East African passport, special immigration desks for East African citizens at international airports, re-introduction of interstate passes, withdrawal of visa charges for students and harmonisation of vehicle transit procedures. The free convertibility of the currencies of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda was already introduced in 1997.

There has also been progress in a number of measures to improve East African infrastructure, for example in road improvement, telecommunication, civil aviation, postal services, energy and related areas and in meteorology.

The Customs Union launched in 2005 eliminates all internal tariffs and other similar charges on trade between the Partner States. It was agreed that the Customs Union would be gradually implemented over a period of five years. Partner States immediately agreed that goods to and from Uganda and Tanzania shall be duty free. From the start, imports of goods from Uganda and Tanzania into Kenya were free of duty, while goods from Kenya into Uganda and Tanzania were subject to two categories of import duty: category A goods were duty free, and category B goods from Kenya into Uganda and Tanzania have the present tariffs phased out over a five-year period.

The Customs Union Protocol also established a three-band common external tariff (CET) with a minimum rate of 0%, a middle rate of 10% and a maximum rate of 25%. The highest CET rate of 25% is to be reviewed by the partner states after a period of five years and possibly be reduced to 20%.

The Partner States also agreed that all non-tariff barriers should be removed and that no new non-tariff barriers should be imposed.

The protocol for the establishment of the East African Common was signed by the Heads of State of the EAC Partner States in November 2009. The ratification is to take place by May 2010, and on 1 July 2010, the Common Market shall enter into force.
The essential elements of a Common Market consist of the ‘Four Freedoms’:
  • Free movement of goods
  • Free movement of services
  • Free movement of capital
  • Free movement of persons and labour, freedom of establishment of companies and businesses.
The actual implementation of the Protocol requires a number of institutional reforms in the Partner States and adaptations of domestic laws to the Protocol, e.g. concerning the removal of existing restrictions with regard to the free movement of labour, goods, capital and services. In addition, the Treaty Establishing the EAC has to be amended to ensure the smooth implementation of the Common Market. Furthermore, a budget for the implementation needs to be developed.
In preparation of the Common Market, all five Partner States will carry out special sensitization programmes. This is especially important in order to give the citizens a realistic picture of what they can expect from the Common Market as there are fears as well as hopes that all border regulations and restrictions to, for example, taking up employment in any of the EAC countries would be abolished more or less instantly.
Proposals to revamp the structure of the EAC Secretariat include to concert the Secretariat into a Commission constituted by Commissioners from each EAC Partner State. The Commission should be headed by a president appointed by the Commissioners for a period of five years.

Other challenges are posed by the reform of the EAC institutions. In this context it has been proposed that the mandate for the Council of Ministers, the East African Legislative Assembly and EA Court of Justice should be further clarified and established. The separation of power between the different institutions and organs needs to be improved and made clearer. Furthermore the Treaty needs to be amended and improved in line with experience made and new challenges coming up. 
Proposals to revamp the structure of the EAC Secretariat include to concert the Secretariat into a Commission constituted by Commissioners from each EAC Partner State. The Commission should be headed by a president appointed by the Commissioners for a period of five years.

Organs and Institutions of the East African Community

Organs of the East African Community

The Summit
The Summit of the EAC consists of the Heads of State of the Partner States. At present these are
  • President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi
  • President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya
  • President Paul Kagame of Rwanda
  • President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania
  • President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda
The five presidents take the Chair of the Summit in turns of one year. The present chairperson of the Summit is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
The Summit meets at least once in each year.

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers of the EAC consists of the respective ministers for regional co-operation of each Partner State and other ministers to be determined by the Partner States. The Council of Ministers meets twice a year; one of the meetings is held immediately preceding a Summit Meeting.

Co-ordination Committee
The Co-ordination Committee consists of the Permanent Secretaries responsible for regional co-operation in each Partner State. It reports to the Council of Ministers and co-ordinates the activities of the Sectoral Committees.

Sectoral Committees
The Sectoral Committees of the EAC report to the Co-ordination Committee and are established by the Council of Ministers. Their task is to prepare programmes to implement the objectives of the Treaty.

East African Legislative Assembly (EALA)
The East African Legislative Assembly is the Parliament of the East African Community. It has 52 members – nine members from each Partner State – plus 7 ex-officio members, namely the five Ministers responsible for regional co-operation, the Secretary General and the Counsel to the Community.

East African Court of Justice
The East African Court of Justice has the major responsibility to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the Treaty. This includes for example disputes between Partner States regarding the Treaty, disputes between the Community and its employees or the compliance of national laws with the Treaty.

Secretariat of the EAC

The Secretariat is the executive organ of the EAC and runs the day-to-day business. It is headed by the Secretary General. The current Secretary General is Ambassador Juma V. Mwapachu. He is supported by four Deputy Secretary Generals who deputise for him and have the following special responsibilities:
  • Planning and Infrastructure – Dr Enos Bukuku
  • Productive and Social Sectors: Mr Jean Claude Nsengiyumva
  • Finance and Administration - Dr Julius T. Rotich
  • Political Federation - Ms Beatrice Kiraso
  • Directorate General Customs and Trade – Mr Peter Kiguta
The Counsel to the Community is appointed by the Council of Ministers and acts as the principal legal adviser t the Community. The Counsel is also entitled to appear in the Courts of the Partner States in matters regarding the Community and its Treaty.

Autonomous Institutions

Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC)
The Lake Victoria Basin Commission oversees the management and development of Lake Victoria Basin and serves as a centre for promotion of investments and information sharing among the various stakeholders. Its headquarters are situated in Kisumu, Kenya.

Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO)
LVFO coordinates fishery issues in Lake Victoria to ensure that fish and fish products are available in East Africa and have access to international markets.

Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA)
IUCEA encourages and develops mutually beneficial collaboration between member universities and Governments and other public and private organisations.

East African Development Bank (EADB)
EADB was established in 1967 to redress the development disparities between the member states of the former East African Community. EADB has a critical role to play in setting up the East African Common Market in terms of mobilising external lendable resources for the East African Market.

Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA)
CASSOA is a specialised agency of the East Community responsible for ensuring the development of safe and secure civil aviation system in the region. The main objectives of the Agency are to ensure coordinated development of an effective and sustainable civil aviation safety and security oversight infrastructure in the Community.

For comprehensive information on all working areas of the EAC, up-to-date news and all important documents see the EAC web portal