Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda citizens are expected to start using national identity cards to visit each other this year as part of the Common Market Protocol.
East African Community secretary-general Richard Sezibera says the agreement by the four states to allow citizens to use IDs will significantly boost movement of persons and labour in East Africa.
At the moment, one has to obtain national passport or temporary passes to be allowed to cross the border.
“I look forward to implementation on agreement on use of IDs beginning 2014,” Dr Sezibera said.
The use of IDs as travel documents, he said, would continue up to December as the bloc introduces internationalised East African passport at the beginning of next year.
When implemented fully, the region’s Common Market Protocol will open the borders for free exchange of goods, professional services and factors of production such as capital and labour.
In preparation for cross-border exchange of labour and other services, the region has reached agreement on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications in East Africa with plans underway to turn East Africa into a single higher education area by 2015.
In November, the five heads of state signed a Monetary Union Protocol that seeks to give the region is common central bank and a single currency by 2024.
Kenya also teamed up with Rwanda and Uganda to accelerate infrastructure development on Mombasa-Kampala-Kigali corridor.
In 2014, the bloc has listed transparency in recruitment to regional bodies among its top priorities.
In future, hiring of staff for bloc’s bodies will be done through professional firms as opposed to current practice where state organs make references, Dr Sezibera said.