Over the years, protectionism has been singled out as one of the barriers to regional integration; with the East African Community being not any different.
Since 2010, the East African Community has operationalized the Common Market Protocol whose thrust is the creation of one flawless single market across Partner States. The protocol, particularly, addresses free movement of people, goods, services, capital and labour and the right of establishment and residence.
However, Partner States have been in different phases in the process of amending their
respective national policies, laws and regulations to conform to the Protocol, consequently affecting comprehensive implementation of initiatives such as the single tourist visa. Therefore, it is welcome news that Kenya and Tanzania have agreed to lift some trade restrictions. Kenya has promised to lift import restrictions on wheat flour and liquefied petroleum gas while Tanzania has promised to lift restrictions on milk and milk products and cigarettes.
These kind of agreements are a step in the right direction but more needs to be done. The journey towards a fully integrated East African Community common market is, nevertheless, far from over. We need a collective Destination East Africa operational. As a region we have much to offer in terms of attractions if we combined our forces in marketing ourselves as one.
To our policymakers, it is high time you consider opening the Bologonja Border crossing. Just to wonder out loud, “what harm will it cause if Tanzania joins the rest of its Partner States in lifting work permit restrictions?” What of the single tourist visa? My guess is these issues hold a key to our competitiveness as the region and they should be given prompt and earnest consideration.
For a while, EAC Partner States have not been marketing the region as one due to existing divergent views on the implementation of regional projects and programmes, in spite of the existence of the Common Market Protocol. For instance, we have had instances, where some partner states prefer to exhibit, in international fairs, as competitors rather than complementing each other. These signs of protectionism have no place in the competitive 21st century tourism market place.
United we stand. Let’s fully embrace the spirit of a Single Common Market Protocol and help guarantee free movement of people, services, labour, capital and goods and the right to establishment and residence.
We urge Kenya and Tanzania to move beyond the latest agreements and focus on addressing work permit requirements, single tourist visa, free movement of tour vans and opening of Bologonja Border crossing to strengthen Destination East Africa. Importantly, we hope action will follow the latest agreements so that East Africans can reap fully its benefits.
A Press Release By: William Nyanamba | East Africa Tourism Platform | Kenya Tourism Federation Secretariat|KWS Hq-Langata Rd | P.O. Box 15013-00509, Nairobi|Tel: +254208001000/3/1