East Africa: Excitement and expectation is spreading across the member countries of the East Africa Community (EAC) as the formal market integration process begins. Under the market protocol, the five-nation EAC will become a free-trade zone, which will enable free movement of people, goods and services; expand the customs union; abolish import duties; open the way for the establishment of a federation state complete with a single currency; and unify foreign policy in January 2014. July 1st saw the official recognition of the integration process, which is anticipated to establish a vibrant business economic hub that can counter modern global challenges. Former Chairman of Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and current Managing Director of Eveready East Africa Limited (EEAL), Steve Smith, has articulated that after the integration, the planned free movement of goods and services as well as free movements of persons and expertise will increase business activities in the region, optimising the area’s potential.
Smith is also confident that the costs of doing business in the region will also come down due to availability of expertise. Furthermore, the market size will increase as clients move closer to the firms to cut down transport costs. ‘An open market will encourage competition, increase the availability of both goods and service, and bring down the prices of everything in the market’, says Smith. ‘This will improve the lives of many’. On her part the Operations Manager at Lotts Agencies, Lillian Nyambura, tried to persuade the authories to give more priority to areas such as the Energy sector, the road network and an ample infrastructure, to boost the growth of the business to a faster pace. This would be a vast improvement to the current state of infrastructure, which has pushed up the cost of doing business in the region. In addition, foreign companies have also capitalized on poor leadership and ineffective laws that allow them to dump their products in the region. Local firms, therefore, face stiff competition. KEPSA believes that with a legally back structure it will be easier for companies to access the regional market block. Moreover, the community will establish a better foundation for doing business both inside and outside the region.