Arusha — Small and medium-sized enterprises across the East Africa region will now easily access the lucrative European Union market under an initiative unveiled here Wednesday June 20.
Beneficiaries of greater business opportunities from the 40 million-euro Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP), funded by the EU through its European Development Fund, include agribusinesses.
The four-year programme will be implemented under the supervision of the East African Community (EAC) secretariat, with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) serving as technical partners.
"This programme supports EAC efforts to improve the regional trade environment, as well as enterprise export competitiveness for a number of products with high growth potential," the head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania, Mr Jose Correira Nunes, said during the launch.
He added that there was growing demand in the EU for products made in the EAC bloc.
"MARKUP will capitalise on this and help create sustainable market linkages between Europe and the EAC and further contribute to job creation and inclusive development in the region."
The programme intends to support East African SMEs that specialise in a variety of areas, including horticulture and the farming of avocados, cocoa, coffee, spices and tea.
Interventions will also focus on the identification and elimination of barriers to trade, improving competitiveness and strengthening of value addition for selected priority sectors.
It is also expected to provide access to trade finance ventures and support the identification of opportunities for trade and foreign direct investment.
"This initiative aims to build the competitiveness of SMEs across the region, and enable them to increase production, take advantage of market-access opportunities and create more value addition," said ITC executive director Arancha Gonzalez.
GIZ country director Ernst Hustaedt said horticultural, coffee, cocoa and tea producers and exporters in the region should capitalise on growing global demand for their produce to increase yields.
Selected SMEs would be trained to adapt their agribusinesses to better take advantage of opportunities in regional and global value chains with deliberate inclusion of women and youth, he added.
EAC secretary-general Liberat Mfumukeko said the initiative would help the economic bloc in unlocking challenges in accessing EU markets in addition to enhancing intra-regional trade.
He added that the major challenge that had prevented EAC exports from accessing the EU and other international markets was the failure by the products to meet the high quality standards required within the EU.