The 2nd East African Community (EAC) investment conference kicks off today in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The inaugural conference was held here last year in June during which participants agreed to hold an annual investors’ summit in EAC capitals on a rotational basis.
This investment conference has been earmarked as an important forum for EAC member States to promote the region as a single market and investment destination to the rest of the world.
Already intra-trade among the regional member states has been growing at impressive rates and trade with the outside world grows year- in-year-out.
EAC member states have strived to put in place business friendly policies that should facilitate trade across the board.
To begin with, a fully fledged Customs Union with zero duty applicable to all goods traded among the member states is now operational.
Different protocols and a host of business regulations have been harmonised to enhance trade.
In addition, the trading bloc is focused on the establishment of the EAC common market which will create an economic bloc with a combined population of 125 million and total gross domestic product of $55 billion.
Two weeks ago, an undersea fibre optic cable was launched on the EAC coastal line, a development that is expected to provide the region with high capacity connectivity at much lower rates.
These happen to be a few of the many incentives that have been laid out to facilitate trade and investment within this fast growing market. And investors should take advantage of them.
But as we seek to attract investments to this market, EAC member countries also need to wash-off certain stains that continue to be an impediment to doing business.
Corruption within certain member countries goes on unchecked and some reforms that address ease of doing business need to be incorporated within our regulations.
The region must also accelerate implementation of projects under the infrastructure sector to facilitate free flow of goods and services.
Probably, the biggest challenge at the second investors’ conference will be coming up with the strategies on how this region can cushion itself against the current global recession.
Just like the conference’s theme states, “Invest in EAC where Challenges are Opportunities,” so must this summit indeed explore possibilities of overcoming the current global crisis by turning it into an opportunity for the region.