EABC, TMEA look to boost dialogue for trade, investments in region

The East African Business Council (EABC), in collaboration with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), on Monday launched a regional programme on public-private sector dialogue for trade and investment.

The new regional programme runs from 2019 to 2023.

Speaking at the opening ceremony at EABC Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, Peter Mathuki, the EABC chief executive said the project aims to enhance advocacy and dialogue on transport and logistics, trade facilitation, customs & tax, standards, and NTBs at regional and country level.

“In addition, the programme extends beyond the EAC and incorporates the COMESA, COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).”

“The EABC is keen to enhance dialogue and partnership between the private and public sector, hence EABC will spearhead the programme in close collaboration with the all national and regional sectoral private sector associations in the EAC,” said Mathuki.

For businesses in the region to grow and expand within and beyond the region, it is noted that there is need for technical and financial support to EABC in a bid to advocate and input substantive issues affecting the business community in regard to policy formulation and implementation in the region.

According to Allan Ngugi, TMEA’s acting Director Private Sector Advocacy, Public-Private Dialogue can facilitate the trade and investment climate reforms by promoting better diagnosis of investment climate problems, transparency and inclusive design of policy reforms. This, he said, will help in making policies easier to implement.

“TMEA launched this new partnership with EABC to galvanize and facilitate trade and investments in the EAC,” said Ngugi.

According to Mathuki, barriers cross border trade such as multiple product standard inspections, and bureaucratic procedures delay business transactions and increase the cost of doing business.

 He said the EABC will evaluate and monitor EAC policies to ensure they work for businesses at the ground level and create momentum for accelerating the policy reforms related to business and investment climate in the region.

The programme seeks to contribute to the reduction of transport (road, rail, and air) cost and time along transport corridors by 10 percent and increase the efficiency of logistic services.

It will also increase the export capacity of East African businesses and enhance customs and other trade-related agencies efficiency by reducing time to process trade documentation.

“It will enhance dialogue on customs matters such as tariffs, taxes, levies, Common External Tariffs, and import/export tax incentives. It will also look at Harmonization of East African Standards, counterfeit and sub-standard issues as well as Non-Tariff Barriers,” said Mathuki.

 According to the World Trade Organization, the Central Corridor turnaround time between the port of Dar es Salaam and Kigali (or Bujumbura) has reduced from more than 20 days to six.

 According to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report (2018), the EAC is ranked at 149 out of 190 in the ease of trading across borders.  In the region, the time it takes to export is at an average of 76 hours which is too high compared to 12.5 hours in OECD High-Income Economies.

The cost of exporting outside the region is at an average of $427.8 compared to $139.1 in OECD high-income economies. The export documentary compliance in the region takes 80.2hours and costs $170.2 while in OECD high-income economies it is at 2.4hrs and costs $35.2 respectively.