The need to eliminate non-tariff barriers, lower the cost of telecommunications and liberalisation of the East African Community (EAC)’s air transport air services are among the priority advocacy issues identified by policy experts in order to promote an enabling business environment in the EAC.
The EABC technical advocacy coordination team (TACT) is composed of policy experts from EABC National Focal Points (NFPs), Regional and Sectoral Association and meets annually with support from the Federation of German Industries (BDI), to reviewing existing EABC policy advocacy agenda, policy actions for the year and formulates the next year’s policy advocacy agenda.
“This meeting being composed of policy experts from the private sector associations in the region, is well suited to share private sector perceptions, deliberate and review on how the region is fairing on stages on EAC integration which are Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and Political Federation,” said Peter Mathuki, EABC Executive Director.
He urged policy experts to look at how the private sector can effectively contribute toward the implementation of Monetary Union among other emerging issues such as the African Continental Free Trade Area that have implications on business in the region.
“For the EAC Political Federation to take place all other stages of the EAC integration process should be properly and fully implemented and EABC as the voice of the private sector in East Africa, should seize the opportunity of having EAC integration as people-centered and market driven. The EABC, as a partner of the EAC, is determined to input into the EAC process through evidence-based advocacy” said Mathuki.
The policy experts emphasised the need for Tanzania and Burundi to join the One Area Network to reduce telecommunication costs for East Africans and business people.
The meeting highlighted that AfCFTA brings a larger continental market of approx. 1.2 billion people, an opportunity to sell goods and services made in East Africa. The EAC private sector should be at the forefront giving input into negotiations of the AfCFTA and COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA to fully utilise the opportunities that come along with the agreements.
“The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to benefit the private sector through reduction of transaction costs by cutting red tape, improving transparency, simplifying and streamlining customs procedures for export, import and transit businesses,” said Adrian Njau, EABC Trade and Policy Advisor.
The policy experts also pointed out that, combating illicit trade in the region, cotton textile and apparels industry, transport & logistics, the harmonisation of standards in the region and the finalisation of Standardisation, Accreditation and Conformity Assessment (SACA) Bill 2015 is crucial to enhancing the formulation of regional technical regulations framework and easings Mutual Recognition of Standards. The experts also underscored the importance to engage in the formulation and negotiations of the rules of origin for AfCFTA and COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA.
Among key advocacy success stories of EABC this year include the adoption of 10 per cent Import Duty on Sugar for Industrial Use, which is an important raw material used by manufacturers; harmonisation of standards to facilitate intra-EAC trade, harmonisation of vehicle load control across EAC, progress in the Implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and positive progress on the movement of services and services suppliers and liberalisation of trade in services in EAC.
“The EABC, in collaboration with its National Focal Points, is committed to taking the lead and partner with key institutions to advocate on the identified priorities in a bid to boost intra and extra EAC trade and increase cross-border and foreign direct investments,” Mathuki added.