EAC Secretary General urges private sector to take advantage of bilateral engagements between Partner States to unlock trade barriers
East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, 18th August, 2021: The East African Community Secretary General, Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki, is urging the private sector to take advantage of the ongoing bilateral engagements between Partner States, to promptly resolve trade disputes so as to increase trade among EAC Partner States.
Hon. (Dr.) Mathuki further called upon the private sector to promptly harmonise their positions on trade agreements at the national level before engaging their counterparts in other Partner States to fast track trade deliberations.
“Regular consultations and dialogues within the national private sector bodies, is critical in building consensus within a Partner State. Divergent positions within a country will only delay in concluding trade deliberations at the regional level, further delaying implementation of regional trade policies,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Speaking during a CEOs engagement roundtable with business leaders in Arusha, that was convened by the East African Business Council (EABC), Dr. Mathuki called upon the business community to push for Public-Private Partnerships, citing the increased trade flows between Kenya and Tanzania, resulting from public and private bilateral dialogues in the recent months.
The SG attributed the significant increase in trade to bilateral meetings by the Heads of State of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Kenya in May 2021.
According to data from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) published by the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya’s imports from Tanzania grew by 70% from January 2021 to June 2021, compared to the same period last year. The statistics indicate that the value of goods ordered by Kenya from Tanzania stood at US$167.5 million in the stated period. The same data shows that Kenya’s export to Tanzania dipped by 21.39% (US$158 million), resulting in a rare deficit of US$9.3 million.
Further, the Secretary General noted the trade volumes at the Namanga border increased sixfold last month, compared to a similar period last year.
Dr. Mathuki urged the private sector to drive the trade and investment agenda by establishing partnerships with their Governments to fast track infrastructure development.
“Private sector needs to move beyond advocacy and liaise with the Government in providing solutions to some of the trade issues being faced across EAC Partner States,” he said.
The Secretary General also highlighted the urgent need for the private sector to improve the competitiveness of their firms, by embracing ICT, to promote digital trade, to compete with other regions that are fully automated.
To promote a favourable business environment, the SG also called upon the Tanzania private sector to take a lead role in engaging the government to roll out vaccination programs in the country.
“A region that is vaccinated will provide an attractive ground for tourism and also attract and retain investors. The Tanzanian private sector needs to also implore citizens to be open to vaccination, as a strategy for economic recovery,” he said.
On improving cross border trade, Dr. Mathuki said that the EAC Secretariat was working on deploying a 24 hour working system at the border, among all Partner States and fully integrating the One Stop Border Post systems.
In addition, the Secretary General also reaffirmed his commitment to pushing for the finalization of the comprehensive review of EAC Common External Tariff, harmonization of domestic taxes in EAC (excise taxes, value-added taxes & income taxes), elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers in the region and activation of the EAC disputes settlement mechanism among others.
On his part, the Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr. John Mongella, reaffirmed the Tanzanian government´s commitment to working with the private sector, as it embarks on recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Data from the Bank of Tanzania shows that foreign exchange earnings dropped from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $1billion. Foreign tourist arrivals in 2020 declined to 616,491 from 1.5 million in 2019,” Mr. Mongella said.
EABC CEO, Mr. John Bosco Kalisa urged the business community to make use of the recently launched EAC-EABC Technical Working Group, and share some of the key issues impeding on trade and investment across the region so that the committee can deal with them.
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About the East African Community Secretariat:
The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of six Partner States, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The EAC Secretariat is ISO 9001: 2015 Certified