Since the establishment of the East African Community (EAC), comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, the region has seen a steady strengthening of economic and political ties among the community's Partner States. The EAC Customs Union came into force in 2005, facilitating the establishment of a common external tariff and paving the way for the removal of all intra-regional tariffs by 2010. Despite this, available trade statistics paint a mixed picture about the impact of the EAC on intra-regional trade. Although the establishment of the EAC coincided with an important expansion in intra-regional trade in absolute terms, overall intra-EAC exports did not grow as a share of the region's total exports. In addition, the persistence of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) still affects trade flows, and reduces the benefits to be gained from the regional integration process.
Part of a project examining the magnitude of NTBs affecting trade in the EAC and assessing the impact of their removal, this briefing examines why, despite great progress in the breaking down of regional barriers to trade, NTBs still persist, and even tend to reoccur time and time again. It suggests a more holistic approach is needed to ensure ongoing issues of poor infrastructure and cumbersome customs procedures do not prevent the benefits of regional trade faciliation from reaching consumers.