The East African Community (EAC) may soon have a regional exhibition of goods, products and services manufactured within the bloc, Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Industry said.
Monique Nsanzabaganwa said that as the partner states continue to foster the integration process, there is a proposal to have a region expo.
“This is a proposal we are considering as a region to strengthen trade. We have discussed it as Trade Ministers and a decision is yet to be reached,” she explained in an interview with The Business Times.
Nsanzabaganwa said that if the expo was passed it will be held on a rational basis.
“This will be a comprehensive one with all sectors, formal and informal businesses ranging from the smallest to the biggest from all partner states.
It will be just like the investment conference, which is hosted annually by one of the partner state to promote regional investment,” she explained.
Nsanzabaganwa added that the regional expo will not interfere with other national annual expos like ‘Jua Kali’ of Kenya or the Rwanda International Trade Fair (RITF).
The ‘Jua Kali’ expo is an informal sector promotional event for EAC industrialists in craft and art. These industrialists deal in all trades from wood carvings, furniture, pottery, food production, textiles, leather and jewellery. ‘Jua Kail’ is a Swahili word loosely translated to mean ‘heat’.
According to Nsanzabaganwa, expos create an opportunity to strengthen trade between neighbours and improve investment climates for economies to flourish.
“This is more crucial especially in times of this global financial crisis which is affecting our economies,” she said.
Similarly, the region is pioneering for a single tourist entry visa in order to compete with the famous African destinations like Morocco, South Africa and Egypt.
This follows President Paul Kagame’s suggestion that all five EAC partner states should appear in one stall at Berlin fair, marketing EAC as one destination.
The single EAC tourist visa would grant tourists utmost choice to move freely within the five EAC partner states.
The president who is also the current EAC Chairman said that tourists no longer have interest in individual destinations instead they prefer diverse destinations.
Figures from the EAC secretariat show that the number of visitors to the EAC region grew from 3,030 in 2006 to 3,408 in 2007.