Trade among East African countries is destined for expansion with the continued implementation of programs that aim at strengthening intra- and inter-regional trade.
According to Kenneth Bagamuhunda, the EAC Director General, Customs and Trade, the community is also implementing trade facilitation programs particularly the removal of Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs) to trade.
“EAC has prioritized growth in its exports through value addition and capacity building for exporters to enable them know about export requirements especially in the EU,” he said.
The Community has put in place mechanisms for the dissemination of applicable trade requirements and trade statistics.
Other measures to promote trade include harmonization of regional standards and strengthening performance of exports through the implementation of the EAC Export Promotion Strategy.
Bagamuhunda said that while the Community had developed a number of key strategies and policies aimed at boosting trade, the biggest challenge was how to implement them.
“Elimination of tariffs is not a problem. The biggest problem is removing Non-tariff Barriers which keep on changing and coming up in different forms,” he said.
On the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), Bagamuhunda said now was the time to push for full implementation of Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) bringing together EAC, COMESA and SADC.
“The TFTA is the stepping stone to the CFTA because what remains in TFTA is its implementation. The Tripartite constitutes more than 60% of the Africa’s GDP and over half of the continent’s population,” he said.
Bagamuhunda was speaking during the official opening session of a three day workshop convened by the TradeComII Programme at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The stakeholder workshop which has drawn participants from EAC Partner States, the private sector, youth and women’s organisations, and development partners will discuss presentation on the: Draft EAC Export Promotion Strategy 2017-2022; EAC Framework of Non-Tariff Barriers, and; EAC Simplified Trade Regime for Women and Youth Traders.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Fabio di Stefano, Head of the Infrastructure and Regional Integration Sectors at the European Union Delegation in Tanzania, said the EU’s main focus in working with the EAC was on trade and economic growth in the region.
Stefano said that political goodwill from EAC leaders will be critical if East Africa was to become integrated economically; adding that reforms to national laws and policies would also be required for the full implementation of protocols and agreements made at the regional level.
Mr. Stefano said some of the key drivers of regional integration in East Africa as has been the case elsewhere were peace and security, and infrastructure development.