By Ben Oduor
The East African Community and the German-African Business Association have partnered to create business synergies in various sectors that will showcase East Africa as an ideal business destination for trade and investment.
Mid April, the two bodies held the first Expert Dialogue meeting at the EAC headquarters in Tanzania, which attracted policymakers, experts, private sector representatives and some members of the German Business Association.
The one-day event was organized by the East African Business Council (EABC) in partnership with the German Business Association.
Addressing the forum on behalf of Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, EAC Secretary General, the bloc’s Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, said the draft EAC investment Policy envisages a transformed upper middle-income EAC that is a competitive common investment area with a more liberal, predictable and transparent investment environment.
According to Hon. Bazivamo, the draft EAC investment policy, which is currently under consideration by the Council of Ministers, lays ground for partner states to cooperate in investment promotion, facilitation, liberalization and protection of cross border investment.
“Partner states are to streamline and simplify administrative procedures related to investments, promote and maintain dialogue with the private sector and exchange business information,” the Deputy SG said.
Hon Bazivamo reiterates that at the regional level, through the Consultative Dialogue Framework, EAC has developed an open channel where the private sector, civil society and other interest groups interface with the Secretary General. He reaffirms that the Secretariat would continue advocating for better and conducive climate for investment in the region.
“I take this opportunity to thank our partners Afrika Verein and EABC for continued good working relationship, and request for further collaboration in supporting the private sector to achieve the business goals and promote the region as an ideal place to invest and do business,” Hon Bazivamo said.
Speaking on behalf of the EABC Executive Director Hon Peter Mathuki, Lameck Wesonga, Manager Policy and Standards at EABC insisted that all the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) hindering trade within the EAC Common Market should be removed to enhance domestic demand and market of over 150 million people from the six EAC partner states.
This, Wesonga said, would attract investments from Germany and all over the world as it will be more economically viable for all investors to invest in East Africa.
“EABC will continue to ensure that the agenda of the private sector is well articulated and received by the policymakers in order to promote a business environment conducive to business formation, growth and expansion,” he said.
On his part, Christoph Kannengiesser, Chief Executive of the German- Africa Business Association said the dialogue provides an opportunity for networking and supports information exchange as well as better mutual understanding.
“The EAC should prioritize collaborative approaches that will see chains strengthened across borders and Governments laying down the groundwork for ease of movement of goods and people in the region,” the CEO urged.
Unlocking potential of the region’s private sector
Over the past decade, EAC has strived to build a vibrant private sector ecosystem in the region. In an interview with this publication mid May, Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, the bloc’s Secretary General, said EAC has been building appropriate synergies with the private sector in a bid to boost investment and job creation.
According to the SG, the bloc in 2018 established an EAC-EABC committee, which has since agreed on an Action plan and developed the EAC Investment Portal as well as other joint initiatives.
“EAC-EABC has already established links and relations with the largest private sector umbrella organizations in the United States, Germany, Canada, France among others. EAC will be more actively engaged in fostering an enabling environment as it is prerequisite for selling East Africa as a Single Investment Destination and for increasing Domestic and Foreign Direct Investments in the region,” the SG said.
Surprisingly, despite other countries improving in the World Bank Ease of doing Business index, businesses in the region continue to decry high cost of doing business.
But according to the SG, the Secretariat, through various regional programmes, is working to improve the business environment and thus decrease the cost of doing business.
“The Secretariat has coordinated the construction of 15 one-stop border posts of which 10 are operational. Construction of infrastructure such as road networks like the Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road, Holili-Taveta Road and the Malindi-Mombasa-Lunga Lunga/Horohoro-Tanga-Bagamoyo (which the AfDB is supporting), has already kicked-off,” the SG says.
On the other hand, in a bid to promote efficient cross-border trading, the Secretariat is working to eliminate Non-Tariff barriers. The Community enacted a legal framework such as the EAC NTB Act (2017) that ensures partner states adhere to eliminating the NTBs, Amb. Mfumukeko says.
The bloc also introduced a Time Bound Programme that provides a monitoring framework in terms of NTBs and put countries to task to eliminate the barriers.
“EAC is coordinating the bilateral ministerial meetings on eliminating NTBs between partner states to fast-track their NTBs removal,” he says. Up to 41 Non-Tariff barriers have so far been eliminated.
Through the 5th EAC Development Strategy launched in February 2018, Amb Mfumukeko says the Community has placed the most critical needs of the region’s public among its top priorities, with most funding going into the most significant sectors.
The Secretariat, for instance, recently mobilized for USD340million from the African Development Bank for the construction of various roads across the region.
EAC also signed an agreement worth USD20million with the World Bank to support the statistics sector, USD20.5million agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the energy sector and 61.5million Euros from the German government to support the health, education, private sector development and regional integration, among other funds.