NAIROBI, July 1 (Reuters) - A common market for the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc kicked off on Thursday, opening up the borders of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi to labour and capital to citizens of all member states.
Here are some facts about the EAC bloc:
* The EAC was first set up in 1967 but collapsed a decade later because of political and economic disagreements between original member states Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
* A treaty to revive the bloc was signed by heads of state of the three nations in 1999, setting the stage for Rwanda and Burundi to join the Arusha, Tanzania-headquartered bloc in 2006.
* EAC has a population of 126 million people and a GDP of $75 billion.
* The ultimate goal of the bloc is to have a common currency in 2012 and turn into a political federation in 2015.
* There is agreement at the leadership level throughout the bloc that a wider market will increase the region’s ability to attract investments, nurture economic growth and reduce poverty.
* The three major economies have diverse strengths. Kenya has a fairly advanced economy, Tanzania has plenty of fertile land and other natural resources such as timber and gold, while Uganda discovered huge oil deposits in 2006.
* Infrastructure, like roads and railways, is a common challenge for all the states. Governments have been allocating increased funding to the sector.
* Member states will have to make several changes to their national laws to allow full implementation of the common market in areas such as immigration, labour and customs.
* Kenya is among the top 10 sources of foreign direct investment to Uganda with 27 licensed investment projects worth $158 million.
* In Tanzania, Kenya is the second biggest investor with 270 companies operating there providing more than 100,000 jobs.
* Only Rwanda and Kenya have a bilateral agreement allowing their citizens to work in any of the two countries without a work permit. Similar agreements are required among all members. (Compiled by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Giles Elgood)