Kampala — The value of the East African Community's exports to European Union rose to $2.5 billion in 2017, up by eight per cent.
They shot up amidst trials to harmonise standards, the latest International Trade Centre (ITC) report has shown.
According to ITC, the region exported goods worth $2.5 billion in 2017, up from $2.3 billion (Ush8.9 trillion) in 2016. But the figure could have been better if member states quickly harmonised standards in the region. Mr Jean Baptiste, the director Productive Sectors of the EAC speaking at the roundtable held in Arusha last week for businesswomen in the region, said: "To tap into the EU market, the region needs to benchmark standards with those in the European Union."
In addition, East African products should "meet the requirements of the European consumers."
For this to happen, member states must ratify the EAC Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocol which addresses food and safety issues in the region.
The European Union offers market for EAC products such as coffee, flowers, tobacco, tea, fish, vegetables and precious metal ores, among others.
Ms Lillian Awinja, the executive director East African Business Council said: "Harmonisation of standards in the region is urgently needed. We have taken the lead in advocating for the private sector in the region to increase intra-EAC trade, improve product quality and maintain competiveness in regional and international markets."
The other challenges slowing down regional trade are non-tariff barriers (NTBs) which keep on cropping up and this impacts business negatively within the region and internationally.
Ms Arancha Gonzalez, executive director of International Trade Centre (ITC), urged the region to add value to products, align their products to international Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, strengthen connectivity in all institutions that promote trade and maximise networks.