Arusha — East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) have successfully negotiated an agreement with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to increase market access to the block's products to Europe.
That comes after a round-table discussion with Ms Arancha Gonzalez, who is the Executive Director of ITC, ahead of the official launch of the Market Access Upgrade project (MARKUP) at the EAC Headquarters, reflecting on the successes, challenges, and impact of the ongoing EAC regional integration process to businesses.
The EABC Executive Director, Ms Lilian Awinja unveiled to the 'Daily News' that they did a lot on practical ways of increasing market access of EAC products to the European Union that has offers of market for EAC products such as coffee, flowers, tobacco, tea, fish, vegetables and precious metal ores among others.
According to International Trade Centre, the EAC region exported goods worth approximately 2.5 billion US dollars in 2017, an increase of eight per cent in comparison with 2.3 billion US dollars in 2016.
"The discussions highlighted the importance of harmonisation of standards in the region that the EABC has been taking lead in advocating on behalf of the private sector in the region, to increase intra-EAC trade, improve product quality and maintain competiveness in regional and international markets.
The EAC Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) protocol needs to be ratified by all Partner States to address issues regarding food safety in the region," said Ms Awinja.
Ms Gonzalez urged the region to add value to products, align to existing international Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and standards, improve trade facilitation and strengthen connectivity all institutions that promote trade as well as capitalise on the power of networks.
"ITC has made trade more inclusive through the 'She Trade Programme' by connecting together over one million women in business from different countries," said Ms Gonzalez.
The Director of Productive Sectors of the EAC, Mr Jean Baptiste said that to tap into the EU market the region needs to benchmark standards with the ones of the European Union and East African products and should meet the requirements of the European consumers.
On his part, the former EABC Board Director and Manager of AVCO Investment, Mr Kake Dhaliwal said the EABC efforts in advocating for the removal of non-tariff barriers such as road blocks, improvement of the transport network in the region and simplification of border procedures has facilitated cross border trade and improved the transport sector.
EAWiBP Regional Coordinator, Ms Nancy Gitonga underscored the importance of linking women in business to different market opportunities and improving their skills through trainings.
She said that EAWiBP has successfully developed a contact database of 10,000 women in business in the EAC region.
The round table attracted EABC and EAWiBP members working in different sectors and sub sectors including technology, consultancy, transport, manufacturing, horticulture and agro- processing, among others.
The EABC is the regional apex body of private sector associations and corporates from the six East African Countries.
It was established in 1997 to foster the interests of the private sector in the integration process of the EAC.
Being the representative of private sector associations in the region, EABC was granted observer status in organs and activities of the EAC.