East Africa: Growth of Intra-EAC Trade 'Down to Joint Policies'

Trade between the East African Community partner states is projected to grow by between five to eight per cent annually if countries fully implement joint policies and regulations, exploit individual competitive edge and eliminate non-trade barriers.

Speaking at the bloc's 20th anniversary, Nicholas Nesbitt, the chairman of the East African Business Council said East Africans, especially private sector players, now need to reflect on how far they have lived up to the ethos of regional integration.

EAC is one of the continent's fastest-growing regional blocs, registering an economic growth of 5.7 per cent in 2018.

"The private sector should be a key partner in the integration process, providing the agenda for economic and social integration but most important, the region should look to becoming a single trading bloc," said Mr Nesbitt, adding that both the partner states and private sector should expedite the domestication and implementation of harmonised policies.

He commended the progress made so far in the improved movement of goods and people because, "starting with the informal sector, it is now easier to access cross border markets; work permit restrictions have been relaxed and professionals and companies are able to expand and establish their customer base."

However, he said intra-EAC trade volumes have not reached desired levels, at just 12 per cent, yet it has the potential to grow at between five and 10 per cent annually.

The EAC he said, is yet to exploit the power of numbers to create more jobs and income opportunities that would improve the purchasing power of citizens, spurring further economic growth.

"The prevalence of non-trade barriers has been frustrating trade within the Community. These NTBs are in the form of prolonged clearance procedures, delays at the ports of entry and exit, delays at weighbridges and numerous road blocks; delays in ferrying of cargo by transit vehicles, non-recognition of EAC Certificates of Origin by some partner states, non-recognition of quality marks issued by EAC Bureau of Standards and retesting of products by individual countries among others," he said.

He cites protectionism at national level as a hindrance to competitiveness in sectors across the region. He recommends value chain collaboration between manufacturers to exploit each country's competitive advantage.

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