The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: Regional Investment One-Stop Centre in Offing

The East African Community Secretariat has announced plans to create a centre where investment opportunities in all partner states will be accessed, with an aim of facilitating investors into the five-state bloc.

According to the George Odipo Ndira, the principal industrial economist at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, most investors outside and within the region waste a lot of time and resources trying explore investment opportunities in member countries.

The Regional Centre for Investment in Manufacturing and Industry, which will be temporarily based at the Secretariat before it gets a permanent home, will start operations next year.

"It's costly and time consuming for investors to criss-cross the region looking for which sectors to invest in. The centre will collect information about all investment opportunities from all member countries," he said.

A regional meeting was last week held in Kigali to discuss modalities of the body's establishment.

Ndira said the centre will be a platform where regional investment agencies will regularly meet to share knowledge and experience and jointly seek solutions to challenges in the community, especially within their docket.

The body is in line with the EAC industrialisation policy and strategy (2012-2032) that was adopted in 2011 to promote investment in agro-processing and mineral processing as well as pharmaceutical petro-chemicals, gas processing and energy.

Jesca Eriyo, the EAC deputy secretary-general in charge of production and social sector, said with more investors increasingly eying the region as a single market, it was imperative to swiftly create the necessary enablers.

"We need to make it easier for investors to put their money in this region. Availability of value adding information is critical in this regard, which is why we need to have a dedicated resource centre that can provide a wide range of information and technical support services that investors need to make quick decisions," Eriyo said.

Lack of information on investment opportunities within the Community is regarded as a challenge that hinders investment flows which leads the region to depend most on foreign imports.

The investors being targeted, according to officials, include those within the bloc.

Improving investments:

Alex Ruzibukira, the director-general in charge of industry and SMEs development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said much as the Direct Investment Inflows in the EAC partner states have been growing at an annual rate of about 14 per cent, there is still room for improvement.

He said Rwanda has a target of increasing its industrial contribution to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020 with the annual rate of at least 14 per cent.

"Rwanda is committed to increase the contribution of manufacturing to GDP and this will require a significant investment in the sector," Ruzibukira said.

"Manufacturing makes up to 50 per cent of industrial output and just 7 per cent of GDP predominantly food processing and beverages," he added.

Challenges:

However, Ssebagala Kigozi, a Ugandan manufacturer, said more challenges still impede regional industrial growth highlighting poor mindset among consumers who prefer imported goods to locally made products.

He added that much as governments were drafting various policies, implementation remained a challenge advising that it was essential to embark on implementing the agreed decisions within the community.

"We have a lot on paper. The speed we use to draft these policies is high compared to implementation. We should think as a region; there are instances where an individual country cannot exploit a given opportunity so teamwork is key," Kigozi said.

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