THE former Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi Exhibition that is now dubbed as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Trade Fair is the engines to stimulate prompt economic development in the East African Community (EAC) partner states.
MSMEs fair that were officially opened at Gikondo Grounds in Kigali, Rwanda on Tuesday, has drawn more than 1,000 exhibitors from Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda and are as envisaged in the Treaty in addition to creating employment for EAC citizens.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Engineer Steven Mlote, said that the annual trade fairs have over the two decades brought together exhibitors from the East African region for purposes of opening up new markets for their products while bridging the existing knowledge and technological gaps between them.
"The exhibitions have proved to be strategic avenues for promoting the Small and Micro Enterprises sector's products, transfer of technologies and enhancing regional integration," said Engineer Mlote who represented EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko.
He noted that if managed well and with a supportive policy and regulatory environment, MSMEs could promote value addition to natural and agricultural resources thereby increasing the region's share in continental and global trade.
JuaKali/Nguvu Kazi Exhibition had gone to its 19th edition last year and now it is the 20th under the new name.
"We must also not forget that most of today's multinationals were at one point in time small enterprises that grew into the giants they are now mainly due to a conducive business environment in their home countries," added the DSG.
Rwanda's Minister for Trade and Industry, Ms Soraya Hakuziyaremye, opening the Trade Fair called upon the MSMEs to scale up their operations in order to grow quickly and become large enterprises that will be competitive at international levels.
Ms Hakuziyaremye noted that MSMEs represent more than 90 per cent of businesses in East Africa; Hence their growth would make them the backbone of the regional economy.
Long term goal of the EAC is to increase the contribution of MSMEs to partner states' Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) from the current 20 per cent to 50 per cent.
She urged partner governments to do all in their powers to address challenges faced by MSMEs so that they create employment and reduce poverty.
Key areas of capacity building for MSMEs is in standards, cross border trade regulations, metrology, business licensing and registration, and the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade (NTBs).
On the growth of MSMEs in Rwanda, Ms Hakuziyaremye said the government was committed to strengthening support services for MSMEs and boosts their credit worthiness for purposes of attracting capital from local and international sources.
Rwanda embarked on a 'Made in Rwanda Policy' purposely to showcase locally made products to national and international markets.