Business leaders from allover East Africa have met in Nairobi to discuss how best they can export services to European markets under the current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.
The three-day workshop that ended over the weekend and organized by East African Business Council and International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP) brought together businesses involved in provision of services to identify opportunities, constraints, and come up with solutions on how the private sector can make the most out of the current trade negotiations.
Although EAC partner states signed interim EPAs covering subjects such reciprocal liberalization of trade in goods, comprehensive EPAs covering other subjects such as bilateral trade in services, investment, and other trade-related issues are expected to be completed in 2009.
Trade in services is a dynamic area of international trade, offering significant opportunities both in terms of increased exports and imports, aimed together at enhancing competitiveness, stimulating economic development and reducing poverty.
According to a statement from the East African Business Council, the service sector in developing countries have recently posted significant growth with most East African countries posting double-digit growth.
Telecommunications, transport, construction, and financial services are some of the service sectors that have posted considerable growth. Some of the areas that the region can leverage on include nursing services, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
The statement also said that service reforms and negotiations remain understandably contentious due to their potential to expose vulnerable stakeholders, including private sector operators, to a variety of risks.
“Companies involved in trade in services are faced with the challenge of identifying services export opportunities abroad and competitively access those markets,” Charles Mbogori, the Executive Director of EABC, said.
“This workshop will identify some of those opportunities and also seek solutions on how companies can deal with regulatory barriers present in potential markets,” he added.
Dominique Njinkeu, the Executive Director of ILEAP, said export in services have been increasing and at a faster rate than trade in manufacturing or agricultural goods.
“By enabling trade, particularly by reducing transaction costs, these services enhance competitiveness and hence have a determinant impact on poverty,” he said.
“This meeting will support discussions on a roadmap for the continued involvement of the private sector in EPA trade in services negotiations,” he said.
EABC is an apex body of business associations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi with the aim of promoting private sector’s regional and global competitiveness in trade and investment.