Youth in the region would be consulted before the EAC Electronic Transactions Bill 2014 can sail through the regional legislative body.
The decision was reached Wednesday when the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) now sitting in Kampala, Uganda, resumed debate on the draft law which lawmakers concurred is long overdue.
The Bill is supposed to make provision for the use, security, facilitation and regulation of electronic communications and transactions.
Debate was deferred after Dr Abdallah Saadaala, Tanzania’s assistant Minister for EAC Cooperation, as Chairperson of the Council, pleaded with the Assembly to accord the standing committee on Communication, Trade and Investment (CTI) more time to conduct consultations and enrich the Bill.
The minister’s plea also came after some MPs, including Abubakar Zein Abubakar (Kenya) and Dora Byamukama (Uganda) suggested that more general consultation is necessary.
“The committee did a good job but the youth were not consulted,” said MP Susan Nakawuki (Uganda).
The Bill was shared with the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) which is headquartered in Kigali, and the EAC Monetary Affairs Committee (MAC) for comments. The EACO brings together a number of consumers of e-transactions.
Saadaala said the EAC is also developing and implementing the electronic payments and settlements systems under the leadership of the Monetary Affairs Committee to enhance financial infrastructure in the region.
It was also noted that the EAC Secretary General, Amb Dr Richard Sezibera similarly wrote to the Assembly requesting for more time to consult stakeholders.
The private member’s Bill introduced by MP Dr James Ndahiro (Rwanda), if passed in the next sitting in October, in Nairobi, Kenya, will enable traders cut the cost of doing business.
Nevertheless, Speaker Daniel Kidega stressed that: “No stakeholder can stop a private member’s Bill from being passed by this Assembly.”
This implies that whatever the outcome of the additional consultations, the Assembly is likely to pass the Bill in its next sitting without much ado. Kidega directed that the Bill be brought back to the Order Paper during the next Plenary in Nairobi.
Mid this year, Dr Ndahiro told The New Times that Rwandans and east Africans stand to benefit in three main ways;
One, he said, is through reduced transaction costs whereby, if anyone is doing cross-border business, they can do most things at their desks in any part of region without need to travel.
Apart from improving the EAC’s global competitiveness as it will bring about improved safety and efficiency in electronic transactions, the Bill seeks to promote technology use.
Given today’s era of e-business and e-governance, the Bill is being put together in order to meet the need of exploiting electronic transactions in modern business deals which are the order of the day.
Noting that there are already huge e-transactions being conducted in the region, MP Martin Ngoga (Rwanda) said: “The Bill comes at a time when individual partner states have related laws in place; its better late than never. But we should always endeavor to be ahead.”
Kenyan MP Agnes Ng’aru Mumbi said: “What for me is important is how it addresses the issue of authentic material transacted from one person to another. Consider the dangers today such as hacking of e-mails.”
Apart from giving predictability and certainty to contracts formed electronically, the new legislation is set to provide a uniform legal foundation for electronic signatures.