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Third annual conference of the Leiden Center for East African Law at Strathmore University, Nairobi

On the 27th April 2017, the third annual conference of the Leiden Center for East African Law (LEAC) took place at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the conference was ‘East African Law: A Common Market, Opportunities and Challenges for the Business Community’.

The conference was opened by Dr. Luis Franceschi, the Dean of Strathmore University Law School. In welcoming the audience to Strathmore University, Dr. Franceschi expressed his delight to be hosting such a forum on EAC law as continued study and research in this area is greatly important for East Africa and helping the institutions fulfil their mission.

Keynote address by Hon. Justice Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja

Subsequently, the keynote address was delivered by Hon. Justice Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the President of the East African Court of Justice. Throughout his address, Dr. Ugirashebuja emphasised that the Common Market was a ‘vital element of the infrastructure of the EAC’. However, it was recognised that the EAC is not immune from the ongoing global debate regarding erecting barriers to trade and that even though projections demonstrate that each Partner State has and continues to benefit from principles of free trade, the debate remains strong. Dr. Ugirashebuja expressed the view that protectionism is counter-productive and that it was necessary to develop Common Market infrastructure which can withstand the challenges and that therefore, this annual conference is extremely beneficial in that it provides a forum for cooperation, collaboration and constructive debate on regional integration.

First panel discussion

Following the keynote address, the first panel discussed the proper implementation of the Common Market within the Partner States. The panel was chaired by Professor Tom Ottervanger and further consisted of Professor Leonard Obura Aloo (Lecturer at University of Nairobi School of Law) and Dr. Elvis Mbembe Binda (Lecturer at University of Rwanda School of Law). The discussion centred on the issues of how to implement the existing rules and regulations in practice and how to monitor compliance by Partner States, the problems regarding perpetuating barriers to trade including non-tariff barriers and rules of origin, the lack of commercial litigation before the EACJ and the potential impact of the COMESA-SADC-EAC Tripartite Agreement. Notably, the panel was in agreement regarding the positive progress that the EAC has made and that it was on the right track to realising the Common Market.

Second panel discussion

The second panel considered the challenges that businesses experience in the EAC. The panel was chaired by Rosa Nduati-Mutero, a Partner at Anjarwalla & Khanna ALN, and further consisted of Hon. Professor John Eudes Ruhangisa (Judge, Tanzania High Court, Founding Registrar EACJ), Dr Armin Cuyvers (Co-Director, LEAC), Rajal Upadhyaya (Managing Director, Catalyst Principal Partners), Kenneth Njuguna (Senior Associate, Anjarwalla & Khanna ALN) and Mehul Soni (Associate, Centrum Investments). The panel commenced with Mr. Upadhyaya emphasising the attractiveness and the huge potential of the EAC market. The panel then discussed both what is working so far for businesses and the continuing challenges they continue to face. With regards to what is working, the panel focused on issues including the institutional framework and the free movement of people. With regards to continuing challenges, there was discussion of issues including, the need for harmonisation, non-trade and regulatory barriers, mutual recognition, double taxation and the need for business to engage with the EACJ.

The conference was closed by Hon. Professor John Eudes Ruhangisa, Judge, Tanzania High Court and Founding Registrar at the EACJ. Professor Ruhangisa recognised that the ongoing debate and challenges remind us of the need to address the factors that have consistently inhibited the benefits of regional integration and that only through enforcement of the Common Market Protocol will the tangible benefits that impact lives of EAC citizens be realised. Moreover, he emphasised the importance of EAC law for the region and that it is vital that students are educated in EAC law and become its future ambassadors.

Book launch

After the closing speech, Professor Tom Ottervanger formally launched the textbook entitled East African Community Law, Institutional, Substantive and Comparative EU Aspects which is edited by Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, President of the East African Court of Justice; John Eudes Ruhangisa, High Court of Tanzania; Tom Ottervanger, University of Leiden; and Armin Cuyvers, University of Leiden. East African Community Law provides a comprehensive overview of the increasingly important field of EAC law while also providing a systematic comparison with EU law which offers a valuable inspiration for the application and future development of EAC law. Professor Ottervanger expressed his hope that the book is a success and that it is a beneficial resource for business, lawmakers, civil servants, judiciary, teachers, attorneys and students. Moreover, it was emphasised that the book should not only be a source of information and education but also of inspiration for the development of regional integration within the EAC.

The conference was followed by a generous cocktail reception courtesy of Allen & Overy to celebrate the successful and fruitful day at Strathmore University.

For further information on East African Community Law, Institutional, Substantive and Comparative EU Aspects. For more information see the publisher’s website.

For further information on the activities of the LEAC, please contact Professor Tom Ottervanger or Dr. A Cuyvers or visit the LEAC website.

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