The East African Business Council has urged the East African Community (EAC) partner states to harmonise investment incentives and market the six-member bloc as a single investment destination.
This was emphasised on Tuesday, December 8, during a two-day EABC virtual conference on trade and investment opportunities in the region in the post Covid-19 era.
Nick Nesbitt, EABC Chairperson said: "We all have a responsibility to improve the investment climate in East Africa to attract more investments into the region. Let's wave the flag of Open Markets and East Africa."
Nesbit noted that Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) continue to hinder cross-border trade due to different measures on Covid-19 in the region and urged for improving regional coordination and harmonization of measures against the pandemic for economic resilience and growth.
"To ensure growth in the region, there is also a need for simplification of business processes and harmonization of EAC tax regimes," said EABC CEO Peter Mathuki.
The EABC called for tax regime harmonization and simplification of business processes, to attract more investors in the region which has market access to more than 177.2 million people with a combined GDP of about $200 billion.
"The region offers numerous investment opportunities in all sectors and has abundant
resources, strategically located, sufficient human capital to support new and existing businesses. The level of intra-regional trade and cross-border investments is also on an upward trajectory," said Mathuki.
Speakers at the virtual conference highlighted the priority and lucrative sectors for investments including: tourism, agriculture and agribusiness, infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, real estate, mining and metals, oil and gas among others.
According to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the country has put in place different incentives to attract investors such as the seven years corporate tax holiday for investors putting up more than $50 million worth of investments.
"Rwanda also offers a one-stop centre for investors with dedicated investment acceleration and aftercare services," said Zephanie Niyonkuru, RDB's Deputy CEO.
The generation of energy from biogas and renewable resources, processing of minerals and precious metals and establishing motor vehicle assemblies are among other investment opportunities to tap into the region.
"Acquiring an investment license in Tanzania has reduced to 14 days and we are working to reduce this further to seven days," said John Mnali, Director of Investment Promotion at Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC).
According to the EABC, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the region continues to be an attractive investment destination with new investment opportunities emerging each dawn.
The virtual conference highlighted: emerging investment opportunities in East Africa, policies and Incentives for investors in the region, strategies to improve the investment climate and ease doing business, as well as the impact of the pandemic on Foreign Direct Investment.
The vast region's priority investment sectors include; tourism, agriculture and agribusiness, infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, mining and metals, oil and gas.
Besides EAC countries, Ethiopia and the DR Congo - which is keen on joining the bloc - were allowed to share investment opportunities in their respective countries. Connectivity issues, however, did not allow officials from Kinshasa to present their investment opportunities.
According to Aschalew Tadesse, Director of Investment Promotion at the Ethiopia Investment Commission (EIC), 80 reforms are being affected to ease doing business in Ethiopia.
"We are focused on easing the process of acquisition of construction permits, starting a business, trading across borders and registering property," Tadesse said.
Guracha Adi, General Manager, Investor Services at Kenya Investment Authority (KIA) said: "While disruptive in many ways, Covid-19 has brought in opportunities in manufacturing of chemicals and cosmetics, textiles and apparels particularly Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), pharmaceuticals such as anti-body testing kits and metals and allied electronics such as oxygen cylinders."
Adi championed Kenya as a favorable investment destination noting that the country has no foreign exchange controls allowing for full repatriation of profits, capital and interest for investors.