Variable geometry is an operational principle under the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (the EAC Treaty). Much like the European Union’s ‘enhanced cooperation’ provisions, the objective of variable geometry is to reinforce the integration process by allowing progression of cooperation among a group of partner states within the Community in chosen areas and at different speeds. The underlying principle of flexibility is seen in both the Union and Community contexts albeit with necessary procedural differences. Other similarities lie in the requirement that cooperation must be left open to any member state wishing to join later, and that such cooperation can only be invoked as a last resort.
East African Court of Justice
Even setting aside funding issues, the failure to creatively blend the dispute settlement mechanisms that already exist at the sub-regional level with what has worked with disputes in the global trading system is perhaps the biggest handicap the new dispute settlement system established by the AfCFTA is likely to suffer. There is certainly no harm in trying to out this system, but because most of the experience and expertise in handling trade disputes and matters has been at the sub-regional level, the new AfCFTA Dispute Resolution Mechanism has a lot to learn from the sub-regional level.
Despite the existing EAC legislation, citizens continue to face challenges to movement of goods and persons across the borders. The ability of EAC citizens to enforce these trade commitments has been grossly underused, and such disputes have been referred to diplomatic means for resolution. It can only be hoped that moving forward, more persons will seek legal redress for such disputes.