EAC farmers  call for removal  of trade barriers

THE envisioned African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could as well turn into a pipe dream if East African Community (EAC) partner states fail to trade within themselves.

Chief Executive Officer with the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) Stephen Muchiri warned here recently that the African Union (AU) broker could remain far-fetched if member states don’t encourage intra-trade. Mr Muchiri observed that some EAC partner states weren’t fully embracing intra-regional trade, even when they had ratified the agreement.

“It is sad to note that we don’t seem to trade among ourselves and this is detrimental to the prospects of AfCFTA,” argued Mr Muchiri.

According to the East African Business Council (EABC) Intra EAC trade currently stands at 12 per cent. This was far from the 78 per cent achieved by the European Union (EU) and the 48 per cent registered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). “We cannot take advantage of AfCFTA, if we fail to trade among ourselves,” said the EAFF CEO.

Mr Muchiri took issue with a number of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), which he said was hindering trade growth within the regional economic bloc.

Some of the NTBs according to Mr Muchiri include export permits and the failure by some partner states to Covid-19 certificates, thus restricting free movement of labor across the region.

He said: major concern for the business community in the region as they add to their transaction costs and thus contribute to low intra-regional trade volumes, which is one of the key factors contributing to the decline of intra-EAC trade and investment.

Mr Muchiri also launched an attack on regional lawmakers accusing them of ‘paying lip service’, saying they weren’t in support of the regional integration. He rallied MPs from national assemblies to urge their governments to expedite the passing of the EAC Cooperative Societies Bill, 2014 to reverse the situation.

The objective of the Bill is to provide a legal framework for Co-operative Societies in line with Article 128 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC strengthening the role of the private sector as an effective force for developing economies.

However, such a Bill is said to be stuck in one of the Partner States, compelling the regional farmers’ federation to task rally lawmakers to task their governments for its full implementation.

In her rejoinder, Tanzanian lawmaker at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Josephine Lemoyan assured the EAFF that the regional assembly was doing thorough follow ups of all Bills that have stalled in each of the Partner States. “We need to know that this process involves a lot of lobbying and strong collaboration in passing these Bills,” she said.

EAFF is a corporate members-based regional farmers’ organization founded in 2001.

Its establishment was triggered by the development imperatives of the late 1990s and early 2000, especially the need to strengthen mechanisms for regional collective action.

EAFF’s formation was championed by national farmers’ organizations from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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