CET review, continental trade bloc top of agenda at EABC meeting

Sunday November 24 2019

East African Business Council (EABC) board chairman Nicholas Nesbitt

East African Business Council (EABC) board chairman Nicholas Nesbitt during a media briefing announcing the business and investment summit dubbed to be held in Arusha, Tanzania, on 28-29 November, 2019. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
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The East African Business Council, the region’s leading private sector economic forum, will still hold its high level meeting, which was to run ahead of the now cancelled EAC Heads of State Summit.

High on the agenda of the EABC November 28-29 business summit, under the theme [email protected]: Private sector-driven regional integration for increased intra-EAC trade and investments, is the implementation of the directives of the Heads of State Summit on One Regional Air Space, review of the Common External Tariff, review of the Trade Remedies Committee, ratification of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards Protocol, and enhancing the role of the private sector in the EAC and AfCFTA negotiations. Others are the use of digital economy to support business, strengthening and supporting small and medium sized enterprises, and industrialisations and value chains as a strategy to increase intra-EAC trade.

The resolutions of the EABC will then be submitted to the EAC Council of Ministers for the delivery of quick wins for the region.

The region is currently grappling with protectionist tendencies by partner states and delays in the harmonisation and domestication of EAC-agreed decisions and directives.

The region’s trade and investment continues to suffer distress due to political decisions by member states, questions around standards of products are rising, while the bloc is facing an uphill task to fund its key infrastructure projects.

In the past two weeks, peanut butter products, Panadol tablets and syrup, all manufactured in Kenya, have been banned in Rwandan and Ugandan markets for being substandard and lacking active ingredients.

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The regional business community are also expected to discuss and put pressure on Kampala and Kigali to resolve their existing diplomatic differences and open borders between them, which have been closed since February this year.

“I don’t have the figures of the cost of the border closure, but there is a cost which has come with the closure, there are losses, we can’t shy away from that. We have engaged the different parties … and we are hoping the matter is resolved,” said Dennis Karera, the vice chairman of EABC.

Trade among East African member states has been declining, standing at 31.4 per cent, largely due to existing non-tariff barriers and increasing imports from Asia.

A report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) released this year, indicated that intra-EAC trade fell to $2.4 billion in 2017, from $3.5 billion in 2013.

The political tensions between Uganda and Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania as well as with other political stalemates between other member countries like Burundi have even made the situation worse.

“Many things — markets, consumptions patterns and quantities — have changed, and we still have non-tariff barriers. We still have a lot of work to do,” said Karera.

He said EACB took time to gather challenges from the region’s business players, which will be presented and tacked during the summit.

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