President Jakaya Kikwete warned on Tuesday the East African Community's negotiating team on monetary union protocol to be very careful, as it is an important phase of the regional integration process.
He sounded the warning when addressing members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), who gathered in the oval EALA chamber in EAC's new headquarters building in Arusha, Tanzania's northern safari capital.
In 2005, the EAC implemented the Customs Union and five years later, in July 2010, the Common Market kicked off and the Monetary Union has been lined up as the third stage of the regional integration process.
He said EAC member countries have been negotiating on the best ways to get into the monetary union as well as getting into a single currency; "but this should be taken as a delicate stage than all stages the region bloc has gone through."
Kikwete further revealed that monetary union is not a simple thing as some people believe as it requires the region to come up with one regional fiscal and monetary policy.
"If this area is not carefully designed, it will put the region into trouble as what is happening in Greece, which is under the European Union. Individual states will be given benchmarks on the amount of money the country want to borrow from outside the regional boundaries," he said.
He further noted that monetary union is core when it comes to regional integration processes, saying the former EAC collapsed due to the monetary union.
"I take this opportunity to ask experts and all those involved in the negotiations to learn from the past experience…don't rush into this area. What happened in 1967 should make us do no mistakes," the Tanzanian leader warned.
He also cited some challenges facing the implementation of the common market protocol as high cost of doing business as well as lacks infrastructure at national and regional levels the area that need to be addressed.
"We also need to speed-up the process of domesticating key issues in the common market protocol," he said.
Speaker of the EALA Margaret Nantongo Zziwa asked EAC Partner States to do more in realizing the tenets of the common market protocol, which is soon approaching the third year of implementation.
She said that the protocol is facing a number of challenges including Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), which bar free flow of business in the region.
Other challenges according to Zziwa include lack of awareness among citizens of the EAC and the need to speed up decision-making by the sectoral committees and the council of ministers.
The speaker also assured the Partner States that EALA will continue to push forward the regional integration agenda so that the bloc remained an important cornerstone to East Africans.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN