Partner states in the East African Community have set next month as the deadline for the adoption of a single customs system in a bid to increase efficiency in trade logistics within the bloc.Presidents from the five-member nations on Saturday directed that the Single Customs Territory be adopted in January 2014. Under the single customs regime, revenue authorities would coordinate their business at points of entry into the region.
This would mean that duty for goods in transit to Uganda and Rwanda for instance would be collected at the Port of Mombasa as opposed to the current practice of taxing goods at border crossings.“The summit directed that the single customs territory commences on January 1, 2014 and that all operational requirements be finalised by June 2014,” read part of a communiqué signed by presidents from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda had already entered a tri-lateral agreement to fast-track the single customs plan under the “coalition of the willing”. However, the fresh directive from the summit of the heads of state brings Burundi and Tanzania into the fold.Initially, 2010 was the deadline for the establishment of the single customs territory. However, this has been delayed by failure of the coalition partners to commit to the process.
With the region moving towards a monetary union, experts point out that it is imperative for the bloc to implement all outstanding economic integration measures set out in the Customs Union and Common Market Protocol.The heads of states also moved to tackle member non-compliance with decisions made collectively by EAC countries. The statement directs the EAC secretary-general, Dr Richard Sezibera (left, below), assumes a policing role with partner nations that are yet to put outstanding directives into effect. Reports on non-compliance will be submitted to the presidents when they meet next in 2014. “The summit directed the secretary-general in consultation with the relevant heads of state to report regularly on the implementation of decisions including non-compliance,” read a communiqué signed by presidents from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.
Community organs that have traditionally been underfunded are also expected to be strengthened with the region considering alternative funding plans. East African affairs ministers were directed to study on various proposals for increasing each country’s financial contribution to the EAC budget.One such plan would see one per cent of the value of all imports coming into the community reserved for the EAC’s budget. This would greatly increase the funds the bloc has planned to spend.
Based on the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2012 data, calculations indicate that one per cent of the value of Kenya’s imports from countries outside the EAC could easily cover the region’s $130 million 2013/2014 budget.The presidents also endorsed a proposal to empower the East African Court of Justice to mediate in matters of trade and disputes arising from the monetary union protocol.Applications for membership in the bloc from South Sudan and Somalia, the presidents said, will be considered next year.