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Concerns rise over East Africa common market

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Several countries in East Africa are taking a step towards regional economic integration today. But the African trade deal has some worried about similar pacts. From Arusha, Tanzania, Benedict Moran reports.


Benedict Moran: Considering all the trouble the European Union is having, it may be a surprise that the economies of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi formally enter a similar deal today.

The East Africa common market means more than 126 million people will soon be able to travel freely, find jobs, invest, and start businesses in any of these countries. It's a major step towards the eventual unification of East Africa along the lines of the European Union -- with a common currency in a few years.

Juma Mwapachu, Secretary General of the East African Community, says he hopes less red tape will attract more foreign investors.

Juma Mwapachu: This is really the approach that we are really going to take: Use the common market now as a platform for purposes of joint promotion of investments into our region.

But not everyone here is happy; a lot of the complaints sound a lot like those coming out of Europe. Smaller economies in the region are afraid of being overrun by Kenya, which makes up nearly half of the $73 billion bloc. That's like what many in Europe feel about Germany.

The U.S. Ambassador to the East African Community says the common market will make it cheaper for U.S. companies to do business here.

In Arusha, Tanzania, I'm Benedict Moran for Marketplace.

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