Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have launched a new common market to improve trade across East Africa, opening up a region of 126 million people for free trade and movement of residents.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said Thursday his government “fully supports the protocol and has already begun harmonizing our local laws to be in tandem with the requirements of the protocol.”
On Wednesday he ordered the waiver of work permit fees for the region’s residents.
“I am directing the minister responsible for immigration to waive fees on work permits for all east African citizens to facilitate those seeking work in Kenya,” he said.
The common market protocol was signed by the presidents of the five EAC countries in November.
The bloc was founded in 1967, but collapsed 10 years later owing to conflicting political and economic interests - conflict hit a record high when Idi Amin and Julius Nyerere faced off.
It was revived in 1999 by Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian leaders and a customs union established in 2005, setting common tariffs for external goods.
The new protocol comes into force on July 1st, and will almost certainly be welcome by long-tim agitators and companies in cross-border trade and citizens in seach of work.
But critics question: With all attention on the World Cup, is it badly timed?
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