Implementation of common market protocol EAC and maintaining the fate of our local farmers and business people has become a major challenge to full realization of of the regional integration since the time it came into force in July 1, 2010.
The common market has faced this challenge mainly because some members of partner states either do not understand the importance of regional integration or they think that by blocking free movement of people, goods and capital across the borders of partner will spur economic growth.
Among the objectives of the Common Market Protocol include acceleration of growth and development among partner states through the attainment of free movement of goods, labour, strengthen coordinate and regulate the economic and trade relations among partner states in order to promote accelerated harmonious and balanced development within the community.
All these could be made impossible following stringent rules that partner states are putting in place and the utterances by political leaders from partner states.
A good example is the trade dispute between Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam that led to the arrest of Starehe Member of Parliament Charles Njagua.
In defence of Mr. Njagua Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale also made sentiments that seemed to support what Mr Njagua had said. Mr Duale accused Tanzania of being a stumbling block to regional integration following their move to stop top Kenyan professional Silvia Mulinge from taking up a job in Tanzania.
Such perceived differences or suspicions between member states should not be wished away. There is need for clear identification of the activities that should be carried out freely across the borders of the partner states.
This is because there is conflicting interest of securing local traders and farmers from all the partner states. Another way of ensuring full implementation of the Common Market Protocol and taking care of the interest of our local market is through lowering the production cost in the country so that our local farmers can be able to produce agricultural product that can compete the other products that come from our partner states.
The cost of production in Kenya has gone so high to the extent that if one want to produce chicken in Kenya for commercial purpose, he/she will run at a loss because his /her chicken will not be able to compete other chicken from Uganda in the market.
At the end the farmer may simply leave the job because there is no return on capital. Another sector that has recently experienced a big challenge is sugar sector where the price of sugar that is imported is lower than that of our local produce. This has led to the collapse of our sugar industries because their products cannot compete those that are imported.
It is therefore my humble plea to policy makers to re look into the cost of production in Kenya so that our produce can be able to complete those from other members of the EAC partner states if we are interested in full realisation of Regional Integration.
Bonface Akong’o communication student, Maseno University.