Friday, February 11, 2011

Multi-Sectoral Council of Ministers meeting on the EAC Common Market protocol underway in Bujumbura, Burundi

ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 7, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)

A Multi-Sectoral Council of Ministers meeting on the EAC Common Market Protocol is underway in Bujumbura, Burundi. The Multi-Sectoral Council is considering several issues pertaining to the Protocol including two Annexes namely: Annex on Mutual Recognition of Academic and Professional Qualifications; Annex on Macro Economic Convergence Criteria; and Annex on Social Security Benefits in the Community. The meeting will also consider additional commitments under the Schedule on the Free Movement of Workers and under the Schedule on the Progressive Liberalisation of Services.

In preparation for the Multi-Sectoral Council of Ministers, the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on EAC Common Market had a session from 31 January to 5 February 2011 in Bujumbura. The Permanent Secretaries session is running from 7 – 8 February and the Ministerial Session is on 9 to 10 February 2011.

While addressing the opening session of the Permanent Secretaries today at the Source Du Nil Hotel in Bujumbura, the EAC Deputy Secretary General (Planning and Infrastructure), Mr. Alloys Mutabingwa highly commended the HLTF for the dedication, focus and expertise it had exhibited throughout its deliberations despite the challenging nature of the issues it had been tasked to handle.

Mr. Alloys Mutabingwa said the HLTF had worked very hard on pending issues and most of them had been resolved and the report that consolidates all the key policy issues and recommendations had been prepared for the Permanent Secretaries to consider.

The Deputy Secretary General reiterated that the guiding principle in working out the remaining Annextures was to fully align and adapt Partner States’ national laws and regulatory framework to the Common Market Protocol provisions. “Putting limits to such re-alignments shall impair the effectiveness we need in operationalizing the protocol, our appeal to this session is to see how such hurdles can be removed”, asserted Mr. Mutabingwa.

Mr. Mutabingwa informed the session that the ordinary citizens (Mwananchi) in East Africa was still waiting to see the immediate benefits of the Common Market. “For example the time when the Mwananchi will be allowed to cross borders without using the ordinary passport. Can we determine when all countries should have developed and ready to use electronically readable ID cards instead of passports?, wondered the EAC Executive.

The Deputy Secretary General requested further that the Permanent Secretaries’ session sets specific deadlines for handling any matter that may appear to be requiring more work for example the additional commitment on the free movement of workers. He said there was need to issue directives that seek to regulate professions that had been committed but are yet to be regulated and also the issue of setting common benchmarks to be used in seeking recognition of foreign academic qualifications.

Mr. Mutabingwa said these were some of the policy issues that determine whether the Common Market being taken forward was indeed people-centred.

The 11th Summit Meeting of EAC Heads of State adopted a Post Negotiations Programme, which among others, tasked the HLTF to continue negotiations on a number of pending annexes. In this regard, the HLTF has held a series of meetings commencing in Nairobi (3rd – 11th May 2010), then Kampala (14th – 23rd June 2010), Mwanza (12th – 23rd July 2010), Kigali (13th – 20th September 2010) and finally Bujumbura (31st January – 5th February 2011).

SOURCE: East African Community (EAC)