South Sudan working with region to ease travel, business: official

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JUBA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said on Thursday it is working on proposal by countries within the regional trade body, the East African Community (EAC), to ease travel and cost of doing business.

Paul Mayom Akech, minister of trade and EAC Affairs, disclosed that the five member countries - Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi - have offered to waive visa fees to ease travel for South Sudanese within region.

"We are now dealing with the visas we are yet to reciprocate," he told journalists in Juba after meeting government technocrats.

"I have discussed with the ministry of foreign affairs and interior and the relevant documentation for this is in the process."

Akech said his office has told technocrats within government ministries to set up offices to help coordinate and expedite EAC issues.

Mou Mou Athian Kuol, Undersecretary in ministry of trade and EAC affairs, said they are committed to meeting their membership obligations within the EAC following economic hardship caused by a five-year-old conflict.

"If you become a member in any organization, you have to pay your contribution; within eight months you will be asked for it but for our case it has never happened because of the conflict," he said.

South Sudan applied to join the regional bloc in 2011 after winning independence from Sudan but was finally admitted into the EAC in 2016.

South Sudan has started to benefit from the EAC with it's private sector being integrated into the East African Business Council, issuance of EAC digital passports and also One Stop Border Posts, which have been set up at borders with it's neighbors to eliminate trade obstacles.

The regional trade bloc aims at eliminating barriers to regional trade through its various protocols like customs union, common market and later on political federation which has not yet been tackled.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

In September last year, South Sudan's conflicting parties signed a final peace deal in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa after negotiations brokered by Sudan government with a mandate by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in Africa. Enditem

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