The East African Community (EAC) is the most integrated regional economic organisation in Africa according to the Africa Regional Integration Index. Indeed, trade-related integration is more advanced than in other regional economic communities in Africa, for example having a customs union and thus applying a Common External Tariff regime. Nevertheless, non-tariff barriers are still an obstacle for implementing the Customs Union and the Common Market.
The EAC Partner States have committed to guaranteeing each other the free movement of services. Futhermore, they have agreed to progressively liberalise their services in seven priority sectors (business, communication, distribution, education, tourism, transport, and financial services), remove existing restriction and not introduce new restrictions. However, the implementation of the service liberalisation is slower than expected. The private sector and civil society are often not well informed and engaged on the state of integration. They also lack strong regional networks that are needed to take an active role in the integration process.
Two steps are necessary to improve the framework conditions for regional and continental trade. Firstly, strategies and regulatory frameworks for economic sectors need to be developed and obstacles to implementation identified. This was the focus of SEMPEAC II’s predecessor project. Secondly, the developed strategies and regulations must be applied and identified obstacles must be removed. These implementation aspects are the focus of SEAMPEC II.
SEAMPEC II supports EAC integration on three levels. Firstly, it aims at supporting regional and continental trade in products with potential to foster sustainable economic transformation such as agricultural commodities. For this, it supports the implementation of regional agreements that improve framework conditions for increasing value-addition in pharmaceuticals, fruits & vegetables as well as leather and leather products. The GFA Consulting Group is subcontracted to implement parts of the support measures. The programme receives co-funding from the European Union to implement the “Market Access Upgrade Programme” (MARKUP), which promotes the development, implementation and harmonisation of standards and customs procedures. This includes improved data for standards setting, exchange of information among relevant institutions and authorities within the EAC and its Partner States as well as training measures for the staff.
Secondly, SEAMPEC II focusses on strengthening regional and continental trade in services with potential to support sustainable economic transformation, among them ICT, e-Commerce and tourism. The programme also assists the private sector in developing policy positions and recommendations. Additionally, SEAMPEC II supports the EAC to jointly formulate harmonised positions in the negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and build capacities of the relevant stakeholders to engage in the continental trade.
Thirdly, on the level of organisational development, the SEAMPEC II aims at strengthening capacities of the EAC Secretariat to implement the 6th EAC Development Strategy. Additionally, the programme works on the level of individual capacity development to equip staff of EAC and relevant regional organisations with the knowledge and skills to push regional integration forward as depicted in the EAC Vision 2050. An example for this are capacity building measures for EAC staff on communication of integration impacts, thereby making the integration process more tangible for East Africans.
For additional information, you can also take a look into the SEAMPEC fact sheet (to be added shortly).