Dar es Salaam — Removing bottlenecks affecting business in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) is top on the agenda for the regional bloc's new business council chairman.
Mr Salum Shamte, the new chair, said he would hit the ground running by addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs). He will also seek to promote intra-trade within the bloc by formalising the informal sectors.
"NTBs still affect trade flow in the bloc. This is attributed to lack of political will among some member states," noted Mr Shamte, who doubles as the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) chairman.
He took over the Sadc Business Council chair from Ms Charity Mwiya of Namibia on August 5.
Officially launched this year, the Council aims at fostering a stronger working relationship between the public and private sector in the execution of the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.
On Thursday, Sadc members tasked the council to engage regional, national and local policy organs of the bloc in efforts to improve the business environment.
Mr Shamte said he would be chairing five or six meetings with the Sadc secretariat on improvement of business climate. "Hopefully, we will have a pact," he said.
Mr Shamte said the problem of NTBs came as a result of governments' move to cushion domestic businesses and industries from overseas competition as opposed to the Sadc's intention to liberalise the market.
Compared to other regions in the world, intra-regional trade is low in Sadc and in Africa. The value of intra-Sadc trade has remained low, at only 22 per cent of total trade in the regional bloc.
Last week, the bloc listed trade barriers among the major hurdles affecting its industrialisation agenda. The others are weak project preparation, absence of project preparation funds, dependence on short term financing, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, and infrastructure shortcomings.
"The region must address infrastructure, shortcomings, mitigate trade barriers, promote regional innovation and research development to industrialise," Sadc noted in a declaration released Thursday.
Mr Shamte said he would also take the lead in advocating value-addition of products to maintain competitiveness in the region.
"We need to add value on agricultural products and add value," noted Mr Shamte.