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EDITORIAL: END LINGERING HURDLES TO REGIONAL INTEGRATION

Monday April 05 2021

Perhaps for the umpteenth time, another call has been made upon the relevant authorities and institutions to fact-track and otherwise accelerate the regional integration processes for the East African Community member countries. This time round, the call was made by none other than the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), the regional joint legislative body for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda Burundi and South Sudan.

Specifically, Eala has called for the urgent finalization of the policies and related regulatory frameworks on functional regional integration. These include – but are by no means limited to – measures on draft e-Immigration; EAC Labour Migration, and EAC Refugees Management initiatives.

Indeed, the absence of such measures is a matter of great concern for nation-states that are hell-bent on achieving full regional integration almost at all costs – complete with the federation status of a group of states with a central government, albeit retaining independence in internal affairs.

If nothing else, this ensures that – among other benefits – there is free cross-border movement of persons, labour, goods, technology transfers, etc.

In its report tabled before a virtual session of the legislature, the Eala Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution said delayed or lack of adoption and enforcement of these initiatives is bound to further delay the EAC partner states from implementing key commitments under the Common Market Protocol of the East African Community.

As we noted in a front-page report of our edition yesterday, East Africa is currently home to some two million refugees – 340,000 of them in Tanzania alone. This makes the region one of the largest concentrations of refugees in the world.

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Coherent refugee management

Hence the call for coherent refugee management based upon collaborative measures for properly handling the refugees situation.

Virtually the same goes for common EAC Migration and e-Immigration policies and regulatory frameworks which are evenly applicable to all the EAC member states.

A common e-Immigration platform would enable users to request immigration-related products and services – entry visas, resident permits, passports, etc. – electronically, and without having to appear physically at Immigration offices.

The EAC Migration measures mainly entail a common regional approach to the management of labour migration within the EAC member nations.

When operational, the measures would forge a common, functional consensus on the principles of labour migration as they relate to all the member nations of the regional integration bloc.

If and when these draft measures become fully operational within the East African Community member nations as individual countries – and also together as a regional socio-econo-political bloc – they would enable the (currently) EAC population of some 177 million souls to go about the business of regional integration that faster and much more easily.

Hence out sincere call upon the relevant authorities and institutions to equally sincerely heed the call by Eala to end the persisting hurdles to regional integration.

They should, instead, accelerate the integration processes, and get it over and done with – thereby benefiting millions of people in this part of the world.