Strategic objective: To enhance stakeholders’ engagement in formulation and implementation of Regional Integration policies.
Over the last two decades regional economic integration has taken centre stage in the economic agenda of countries worldwide, a situation that has been attributed to the need for countries with common economic interests to cooperate and increase gains from trade and minimize losses that would otherwise bog down smaller entities. Since 1999 Uganda has been part of a regional integration process within the auspices of the East African Community (EAC). Through the EAC, Uganda has engaged in negotiations for a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) arrangement with the COMESA and SADC regions. There are also integration efforts at the Africa continental level to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and develop an action plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT).
A number of achievements have been realized within the EAC; key among which has been the increased intraregional trade from $3.8 billion in 2010 to $4.5 billion in 2011 and $5.5 billion in 2012. Among other African Regional Economic Blocs, the EAC is leading in intraregional trade which currently reported by UNECA is standing at 12 % even though it falls short of the 35 % that was earmarked under the Common Market Protocol. Other achievements include the successful negotiations of the EAC-COMESA-SADC Tripartite FTA and the widening of the Community to include Southern Sudan which brings opportunities of a wider market but also presents socio-political and governance challenges. The region has realized deeper integration and cooperation through enacting a number of protocols and policies, and through fostering the free movement of goods, workers and services. In a move to strengthen people centered integration, there has also been the establishment of structures for stakeholders’ engagement i.e. the CSO-PSO consultative dialogue framework.
However, these achievements are yet to translate into structural transformation of the partner states’ economies. Unemployment rates in the region are still high, with the youth unemployment index alone swinging between 65% and 80% within some member states. Little has also been achieved in agriculture despite being the key sector in the region. This situation is due to a number of policies and protocols which are incoherent and do not take into account the actual needs of the people at national and regional level and limited implementation of the existing protocols and polices. There has also been limited Stakeholders’ engagement in the crafting of policies and protocols which has limited their comprehension, participation and ownership of the regional integration process. The regional integration agenda is also complex hence the majority of the citizens do not fully appreciate its implications on their livelihoods. Subsequently, this undermines the ‘people centeredness’ envisaged by the EAC Treaty. Interventions by civil society are also largely adhoc, duplicated and not sustained which has hindered their effective contribution to the process.
Against this background, SEATINI’s regional integration program will; in the next five years, focus on addressing these issues.