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The East African Community (EAC) is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the five east African countries Burundimarker, Kenyamarker, Rwandamarker, Tanzania, and Uganda. While generally, the member nations are largely in favor of the East African Federation, informal polls indicate that most Tanzanians (80% of its population) have an unfavorable view. Tanzania has more land than the other EAC nations combined, and some Tanzanians fear landgrabs by the current residents of the other EAC member nations. Land scarcity is a recurring issue in East Africa, particularly in Kenya, where clashes on the Kenyan side of Mount Elgonmarker in 2007 left more than 150 dead and forced at least 60,000 away from their homes.

The first major step in establishing the East African Federation is the customs union in East Africa signed in March 2004 which commenced on 1 January 2005. Under the terms of the treaty, Kenya, the region's largest exporter, will continue to pay duties on its goods entering the other four countries until 2010, based on a declining scale. A common system of tariffs will apply to goods imported from third-party countries.

The EAC was originally founded in 1967, but collapsed in 1977, causing celebrations and wine-toasting in Kenya. It was officially revived on 7 July 2000. EAC is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community. In 2008, the EAC, after negotiations with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) agreed to an expanded free trade area including the member states of all three.

Members

  • (2001)
  • (2001)
  • (2001)
  • (2007)
  • (2007)


The East African region covers an area of 1.8 million square kilometres with a combined population of about 100 million (July 2005 est.) and has significant natural resources. Tanzania has had a relatively peaceful history since achieving independence, in contrast to the wars and civil strife that have occurred in Kenyamarker, Rwandamarker, Burundimarker, and Uganda. Today East Africa seeks to maintain stability and prosperity in the midst of ongoing conflicts in the D.R.marker Congomarker, the Horn of Africa, and southernmarker Sudanmarker. The two most prevalent languages of East Africa are Swahili , English, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda, although French is also common.

History

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have had a history of co-operation dating back to the early 20th century, including the Customs Union between Kenya and Uganda in 1917, which the then Tanganyika joined in 1927, the East African High Commission (1948-1961), the East African Common Services Organisation (1961-1967) and the East African Community (1967-1977).

In 1977, the East African Community collapsed after ten years due to demands by Kenya to have more seats than Uganda and Tanzania in decision-making organs, amid disagreements caused by dictatorship under Idi Amin in Uganda, socialism in Tanzania, and capitalism in Kenya, and the three member states lost over sixty years of co-operation and the benefits of economies of scale. Each of the former member states had to embark, at great expense and at lower efficiency, upon the establishment of services and industries that had previously been provided at the Community level.

Later, Presidents Moi of Kenya, Mwinyi of Tanzania, and Museveni of Uganda signed the Treaty for East African Co-operation in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 November 1993, and established a Tri-partite Commission for Co-operation. A process of re-integration was embarked on involving tripartite programmes of co-operation in political, economic, social and cultural fields, research and technology, defence, security, legal and judicial affairs.

The East African Community was finally revived on 30 November 1999, when the Treaty for its re-establishment was signed. It came into force on 7 July 2000, twenty-three years after the total collapse of the defunct erstwhile Community and its organs.

Future plans

The new treaty may be fast tracked, with plans drawn up in 2004 to introduce a monetary union with a common currency, the East African shilling, sometime between 2011 and 2015. There are also plans for a common market and a political union, the East African Federation, with a common President (initially on a rotation basis) and a common parliament by 2010. However, some experts like those based out of the public think tank Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), have noted that the plans are too ambitious to be met by 2010 because a number of political, social and economic challenges are yet to be addressed. The fast tracking is currently the subject of National Consultative discussions, and a final decision will be taken by the EAC Heads of State in mid-2007.

Single Tourist Visa

It had been hoped that an East African Single Tourist Visa may have been ready for November 2006, if it was approved by the relevant sectoral authorities under the EAC's integration programme. If approved the visa will be valid for all three current member states of the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). Under the proposal for the visa, any new East African single visa can be issued by any member state's embassy. The visa proposal followed an appeal by the tourist boards of the partner states for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination and the EAC Secretariat wanted it approved before November's World Travel Fair (or World Travel Market) in London. When approved by the East African council of ministers, tourists could apply for one country's entry visa which would then be applicable in all regional member states as a single entry requirement initiative.

East African Court of Justice

The East African Court of Justice is the judicial arm of the Community. The court has original jurisdiction over the interpretation and application of the 1999 Treaty that re-established the EAC and in the future may have other original, appellate, human rights or other jurisdiction upon conclusion of a protocol to realise such extended jurisdiction. It is temporarily based in Arusha, Tanzania.

East African Legislative Assembly

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is the legislative arm of the Community. The EALA has 27 members who are all elected by the National Assemblies of the member states of the Community. The EALA has oversight functions on all matters that fall within the Community’s work and its functions include debating and approving the budget of the Community, discussing all matters pertaining to the Community and making recommendations to the Council as it may deem necessary for the implementation of the Treaty, liasing with National Assemblies on matters petaining to the Community and establishing committees for such purposes as it deems necessary. Since being inaugurated in 2001, the EALA has had several sittings as a plenum in Arusha, Kampala and Nairobi.

East African passport

The East African passport was officially launched on 1 April 1999. The East African passport has been introduced as a travel document to ease border crossing for East Africans. It is valid for travel within the EAC countries only and will entitle the holder to a multi entry stay of renewable six months’ validity in any of the countries. The passport is issued in all three EAC member states (Kenyamarker, Uganda and Tanzania). The passports are available at the Headquarters of the respective Immigration Departments in Nairobimarker, Kampalamarker and Dar es Salaammarker. Only East African nationals may apply to be issued with the passports. The passport costs US$10 or the equivalent in EAC currencies. Processing of applications for the passports will normally take two to three weeks. Although the passport is only valid within the EAC, modalities of internationalizing the East African passport were being discussed with the aim towards having a common travel document for East Africans by 2006.

Other measures meant to ease border crossing for East Africans include the issuance of interstate passes (which commenced on 1 July 2003), a single immigration Departure/Entry card (adopted by the all 3 member states), the finalization of harmonized procedures of work permits and the classification process, and the compilation of studies on the Harmonization of Labour Laws and Employment Policies (now in its final stages).

Internet in East Africa

Internet use in East Africa is still very low compared to developed nations. East Africa is a solid economic block with over 120 million combined population. It is estimated that 10 % of East Africans - 12 million, actively use Internet. The EAC strategy emphasizes economic co-operation and development with a strong focus on social dimension. Most East Africans use internet to check news, read email and for social networking. More recently, there is a number of emerging EAC online platforms that amalgamates East Africa. Internet speed is also low in East Africa compared to developed nations. This is perhaps one of the main hindrance for online growth in East Africa.

Comparison with other regional blocs

See also



References

External links




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