The United Kingdom has promised to provide £20 million to boost trade opportunities through improving transport links, streamlining border controls, and deepening regional economic integration in East Africa.
During a function held at the East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania on Wednesday, UK’s Minister for Trade & Development, Gareth Thomas, launched a new regional aid for trade programme that will realize this vision.
The money will be availed through a framework called the Regional East Africa Integration Programme (REAP) which is part of the Department for International Development (DFID)’s global aid for trade strategy.
Thomas signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to approve the grant with Ambassador Juma Mwapachu, the Secretary General of the EAC.
According to the MoU, Britain will support implementation of the EAC’s Development Strategy 2006-2010 through technical assistance and grants of up to $3m per year to the EAC Partnership Fund.
“Tanzania and Kenyan ports and markets are already an economic umbilical cord for imports and exports, but red tape and lack of infrastructure means that there are still too many barriers to enable East Africa to compete successfully in the global market.
“REAP is a vital step forward as it will provide such practical and tangible help for local people to trade easier, faster and in greater quantities,” an EAC communiqué quoted Thomas as saying.
Mwapachu said that the EAC was encouraged by UK’s participation in the EAC Partnership Fund, adding that the bloc’s secretariat greatly appreciates the approach by REAP in working with the Secretariat, national governments, civil society and the private sector.
Once in full operation, the programme will add strength to efforts currently undertaken by the Heads of State of EAC Partner States in tackling challenges including the region’s small fragmented markets, inadequate infrastructure, high transport costs, difficult customs procedures and bottlenecks at ports and borders.
These are currently believed to be hampering the regional economic growth, its ability to create jobs and increase incomes, and lack of quick solutions to reduction of poverty among the EAC’s over 100 million population.