The East African Business Council (EABC) in partnership with the Federation of German Industries (BDI) has convened trade and policy experts from the EAC Partner States virtually to chart out a joint regional policy advocacy agenda geared to spur intra-EAC trade to 30%.
COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted regional and global supply chains leading to contraction of intra-EAC trade and costing USD37billion to USD79 billion output losses for the region.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled EABC to refocus and repurpose policy advocacy initiatives towards economic resilience and rebound including stimulus packages to support business continuity,” said Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki, EABC CEO in his opening remarks.
Total EAC exports decreased by 4.7 percent to USD 14.0 billion in 2018 from USD 14.7 billion in 2017 of which, intra-EAC exports accounted for 22.4 percent. The trade deficit for the EAC region increased by 39.4 percent to USD 24.3 billion in 2018 from USD 17.4 billion registered in 2017. (EAC Trade & Investment Report, 2018).
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“Speaking in one voice as the business community reinforces our advocacy efforts towards mitigating the impact of the pandemic on businesses and spur intra-EAC trade to 30%,” said Mathuki said in his opening remarks.
Elimination of persistent Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), implementation of trade dispute settlement mechanism; harmonized product standards and work permit regimes; liberalization of trade in services, free movement of capital, harmonization of domestic taxes in the region are top of the EABC Policy Agenda 2021/22 geared to boost intra-EAC trade and investment in the region.
“Concerted advocacy efforts are needed to fast track the finalization of the comprehensive review of the EAC Common External Tariff to boost industrialization and regional value chains, he added.
“The Federation of German Industries (BDI) as the umbrella association of German industries sees the vast potential of African and German private sector cooperation. Strengthening regional integration translates into large markets of opportunity. The African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has the potential to become a game-changer and significantly boost intra-African trade. In the long run, it can also foster investments and trade between Africa and Europe. The implementation will be crucial.” said, Mr. Matthias Wachter, Head of the Department for International Cooperation, Security, Raw Materials and Space at the Federation of German Industries (BDI).”
He added: “COVID-19 enforced the need for economic reforms, a harmonized response and policy approach.”
Enhancing collaboration and creating synergies among the East African Business Council, National Apex Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce in the region is important towards informing and harmonizing policy advocacy initiatives that reflect business challenges experienced at the national level.