Parliamentarians in the East African Community (EAC) bloc have been urged to spearhead efforts that will remove barriers to business.
They should also implore on their respective leaders to ensure that national interests do not supersede EAC ambitions and aspirations.
“Parliamentarians hold the key to fast-track and unlock opportunities for economic integration of the bloc,” said Mr Martin Ngoga, the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
He said during a dinner hosted by the East African Business Council (EABC) that the time has come for the lawmakers to seriously pursue the economic integration goal for the bloc.
Parliamentarians, he pointed out, should also be in the forefront in resolving barriers to trade and investments which, he said, were rampant in the region.
The dinner was hosted for the Parliamentary Forum of the EAC Affairs and took place at a time Arusha was hosting inter-parliamentary games for the national assemblies of the partner states.
Mr Ngoga, nonetheless, lauded the EAC for being the fastest growing economic bloc in Africa among a host of regional economic communities (RECs) in the continent.
EABC executive director John Bosco Kalisa, for his part, said the economic potential of the six nation bloc continues to be hampered by the high cost of doing business.
He attributed the scenario to double taxation, persistent non-tariff Barriers (NTBs), non-harmonised product standards and dissimilar policies on work permits and telecommunications.
He implored on the lawmakers to champion implementation of the One Network Area for Communication, Open Skies policy and finalisation of Common External Tariff (CET) review process.
Mr Kalisa also called for “a green channel” for EAC originating goods to trade freely across the region in order to spur intra-EAC trade from the current level of 15 percent.
Arusha Regional Commissioner John Mongela said Tanzania was committed to facilitating cross border trade and investment for the prosperity of all East Africans.
Mr Dicksons Kateshumbwa, an MP from Uganda and the country’s chair of the Parliamentary Forum for EAC Affairs chapter in that country, regretted that intra-EAC trade in the bloc was still low.
He called for fast-tracking of implementation of key laws such as the recently passed EAC legislation to tame the notorious trade barriers and putting in place a trade remedies committee.
Mr Adrian Njau, an EABC trade policy analyst, urged the MPs to champion ratification of the EAC Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion.
He also called for a coordinated approach on Covid-19 measures, vaccinations and mutual recognition of Covid-19 testing certificates.