East African currency coming
14/04/2005 11:31 - (SA)
Nairobi - Kenya is pushing ahead with plans for an East African political federation with neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda that would create a common currency and constitution for the three nations by 2010.
Taking the lead on the project, President Mwai Kibaki's government announced late on Wednesday it would take the proposal to the Kenyan public in a bid to win support for expanding a three-way customs union that took effect in January.
And, it said Kibaki, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni would meet at a special summit, probably in Kenya, on May 20 to review progress made on the "roadmap" for the East African Federation that they adopted in August 2004.
"Kenyans should be made fully aware of the implications of the East African Federation through debate in parliament and the public on the issues raised in the roadmap," Kibaki said in a statement.
"We want to take the message of East Africa co-operation out of high level summit meetings of heads of state to the boardrooms of our private and public corporations, the streets of East African urban centres and homesteads in our rural households," he said.
'World moves towards closer integration'
The seven-step roadmap envisions a referendum on a federal constitution in September 2009, the creation of a common currency by the end of 2009 and the formal creation of the federation with a president, cabinet, parliament and Supreme Court by January 2010.
For the first three years, the presidency would be rotated between the sitting heads of government of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda until presidential and legislative elections are held between January and March 2013, according to the plan.
An East African Community linking the three former British colonies was originally created in 1967 in a post-independence bid at regional unity but collapsed a decade later as ties deteriorated between the members and their economic policies diverged.
It was officially relaunched in 2000 as leaders of the three countries embraced the idea of creating an EU-style common market for their 90 million citizens to strengthen their economic and political clout.
"The world is moving towards closer integration and East Africa must not be left behind," Kibaki said.
"I am a firm believer that regional integration in the contemporary world is not a choice but a necessary strategy for rapid and sustainable development," Kibaki said.
On January 1, the three countries put the East African Common Customs Union into place to free up cross-border trade worth $90bn.
The move has been a boon for all three, Kibaki said, noting that Uganda is now the largest single market for Kenyan exports and Tanzania the third largest.
Kenya is the second largest market for Ugandan products and the sixth-largest for Tanzanian goods. - AFP
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