Denis Karera, the Managing Director of Kigali Heights, was yesterday elected chairman of the East African Business Council during the council’s General Assembly in Kigali.
Karera, who is also the president of Rwanda hoteliers association and honorary consul of Ghana in Rwanda, will now oversee the council’s general activities after his Tanzanian predecessor Felix Mosha’s tenure of office expired yesterday.
The council is the apex body of business associations of the private sector and cooperatives from the 5 east African member states. It was established in 1997 and Rwanda’s private sector joined the council in 2007.
One of Karera’s top priorities will be to oversee the construction of the council’s headquarters which will be established in Kigali. The headquarters will also double as the region’s trade center that will help facilitate foreign investments in the region.
“We will ensure continued advocacy for the elimination of all trade barriers across the region to facilitate doing business in the region; and focus more on the harmonisation of airspace and data rates which are still a big constraint to businesses in the region,” Karera told Sunday Times.
Felix Mosha, the outgoing EABC chairman, reiterated the challenges the business community is still facing in the region.
“There is need to build the council’s capacity through enhanced technical and capabilities for increased sustainability. The incoming chairman therefore must ensure increased advocacy in areas of tax harmonisation, harmonisation of work permits and continue monitoring the removal of non-tariff barriers,” Mosha said.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Hategeka, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and industry, challenged members of the council to forge partnerships that will help expand value chains in the integration process.
Rwanda’s trade with EAC has increased from $185m in 2012 to more than $300m in 2014 thanks to the EABC; and according to Hategeka, the country could do better if members of the business community worked together in addressing trade barriers.
Overall, more than 70% of the trade barriers have been eliminated, thanks to the advocacy from the business council.
Private sector welcomes chairmanship
According to Gerald Mukubu, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Federation (PSF), the chairmanship means more competitiveness for Rwanda and most importantly, more say in decision and policy making.
“We want to use it as an opportunity and continue advocating for the removal of NTBs but also market accessibility by our members,” Mukubu said.
More about EABC
The council currently accommodates about 54 Associations and 102 corporate Members with the objective of fostering an enabling business environment and promoting private sector’s regional and global competitiveness in trade and investment.