The Kenyan government on May 15 urged Africa's main trading bloc to hasten steps towards creating a customs union in a bid to overcome problems that have dogged the region. Ministers from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) met in Nairobi to check progress made by the creation of common external tariff system that was agreed last year.
Under last year's deal, every COMESA member was to apply the same tariffs on goods from outside the region, allow free movement of capital goods and raw materials and impose a 10% tax for intermediate products and 25% for finished goods.
The 19-member bloc plans to launch a customs union at the end of 2008, but experts have warned the deal may be delayed by some member states who fear their weaker economies could collapse.
When it was founded in 1993, COMESA, representing some 400 million people, aimed for a free trade zone for all member countries from 2000, evolving into customs union by 2004 and monetary union by 2025. But it has fallen short of its plans, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Swaziland and Uganda yet to participate in the free trade zone and balking at the customs union.
COMESA groups Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, the DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008