East Africa: Ministers, Businesses Call for 40% Increase in Regional Trade

(file photo).
4 September 2023

East African Community (EAC) ministers and the business community have urged member-states and the bloc's secretariat to commit to an increase of 40 per cent in regional trade over the next five years.

This is one of the resolutions of the second East African Business and Investment Summit and Expo held in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, which was attended by over 500 delegates, including ministers, senior government officials, industry leaders, potential investors, and representatives from financial institutions.

The summit which closed on September 1 discussed successes and challenges facing trade and investments within the EAC and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with the objective of identifying necessary policy reforms and leveraging opportunities for increased intra-African trade and investment.

Intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2 per cent to $10.9 billion in 2022 up from $9.8 billion the previous year. The region's total trade increased by 13.4 per cent to $74.1 billion in the same period.

According to a statement released following the summit, the EAC leaders and business people agreed to "prioritise harmonisation of trade and investment regulations and policies within the EAC to facilitate promotion of EAC as a single investment destination."

Among their resolutions is the establishment of a fund for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to facilitate their access to finance.

They urged the member-states to address the high cost of air travel through the implementation of open skies in the EAC.

They also called for establishment of robust legal frameworks and investor protection measures to create a conducive business environment.

They urged accelerating exports of high-demand products to match regional growth amid competitive international markets as well as increasing manufacturing capacity, diversified production, and developing competitive medium and high-tech sectors.

The regional ministers highlighted the need for dialogue with the private sector in harmonisation of domestic taxes, including excise duties, VAT, income tax, and tax incentives, and lowering the cost of implementing the Digital Tax Stamp System across the EAC.

They also resolved to invest reasonable resources in Research and Development (R&D) to achieve industrialisation and increased productivity.

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