The entry of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s brother to the regional lobby East African Business Council (EABC) is raising both hopes and fears that the persistent trade disputes among East African Community partner states could end or increase.
Muhoho Kenyatta – an elder brother of the president – runs Brookside Dairy, the near-dominant milk processor in Kenya, with interests across the region, and owned by the family.
On the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last week in Kigali, he was chosen to be one of the executive members of the EABC board.
At the council’s Annual General Meeting, Tanzania’s Angelina Ngalula was chosen chairperson, replacing Kenya’s Nicholas Nesbitt, who has served since 2018.
Ms Ngalula is the chairperson of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation and the Tanzania Truck Owners Association.
Four members from each EAC state were chosen to the executive committee for the period 2022/2024.
Mr Kenyatta will sit on the EABC board together with Kenyans Jas Bedi (Kenya Private Sector Alliance), Emily Waita (Coca-Cola Central, East and West Africa) and Mucai Kunyiha (Kenya Association of Manufacturers).
Other members are Rwandans Dennis Karera (Kigali Heights), John Bosco Rusagara (Intraspeed Ltd), Emmanuel Nkusi (Bank of Kigali) and Linda Kalimba (Trinity Lawyers) and Tanzanians Paul Makanza (Tanzania Cigarette Public Ltd), Jacqueline Mkindi (Taha Fresh) and Ali Suleiman Amour (Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture).
The Ugandans are Simon Kaheru (Uganda Manufacturers Association), Stuart Mwesigwa (Roofings Group), Businge Wilson Rwabwogo, (Mukwano Industries) and Pheona Nabaasa Wall (Uganda Law Society) while Burundi is represned by Muzanena Antoine (Burundi Traders Association), Juvénal Sakubu ( EIS-EKA Group), Delphin Kaze ( KAGE) and Amelie Ninganza (KHS Company Ltd).
All eyes are on the role Mr Kenyatta will play in ending persistent disputes on milk, eggs and sugar often pitting Kenya against Tanzania and Uganda.
Tanzania and Kenya have for the past five years engaged in an on-and-off war over trade in dairy products, including confectionery, with Brookside at times finding itself at the centre of the disputes. Now, Uganda accuses Kenya of erecting barriers in the trade of its milk and efforts are ongoing to end the stalemate.
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John Bosco Kalisa, EABC chief executive, said the president’s brother is not special in the council as all proposals by members will be included in the annual policy advocacy agenda.
That agenda, he said, will be submitted to the EAC Council of Ministers for consideration and adoption. But he told The EastAfrican that Mr Kenyatta’s nomination is expected to expedite resolution of trade disputes and not derail them.
“The EABC board is a very committed board with a strong political engagement, so one of their mandates is to resolve the outstanding trade disputes,” said Mr Kalisa.