17 December 2012

East Africa: Regional Body Should Find a Way to Grow Exports


Burundi has shown an improvement of growth in exports by about 15% and a steady decline in imports, according to experts at the East African Community headquarters.

This is a sign of an economy in recovery and although the inflation rates remain high, at about 8.3%, the economy will register real growth.

The largest export for Burundi, by far, is coffee, which accounts for more than 70% of the country's foreign exchange earnings.

Burundi's coffee has been said to be one of the best in the world, thanks to her climate, altitude and soils.

It is also a testament to President Pierre Nkurunziza'a insistence on agriculture as the way to grow the Burundian economy and he can often be found in rural settings encouraging farmers to grow more crops.

Early this year, Uganda's imports from Burundi far outstripped imports from her other 'giant' neighbours Kenya and Tanzania. Most of this was coffee.

This proves two things; that inter-regional trade is booming and that a small country can export more than it's bigger counterpart if well-focused.

This kind of growth will only be successful if the East African Community (EAC) can continue in it's present path of removal of trade barriers, especially the non-tariff ones, so that goods, capital and services can move freely in the region.

There is also a big role peace plays in economic activity and the reduction in conflict in Burundi is partly responsible for this increased export activity.

Burundi has also recently held trade fairs to encourage investment and has been aggressively reforming her laws and procedures to attract more foreign investors.

This has caused her to win several accolades in Tourism and has recently been commended as the best reformer in Africa.

This kind of pragmatism has not excaped the international donor community and a couple of months ago Burundi was given a big economic boost when she was given more than she requested for from the donors in Geneva.

The EAC will continue to grow into a great place for business and the current application by both Somalia and South Sudan to join the economic bloc can only be positive since this will increase the market for Burundi coffee and many other products from the EAC.

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