Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Palamagamba Kabudi, on Thursday urged the private sector to take a front seat toward the economic development of the East African Community (EAC) region.
Opening the two-day High-Level East African Business and Investment Summit in the safari capital Arusha, Kabudi said the EAC should be people-centered and private sector driven.
“If we lose focus of a people-centered community, the EAC is bound to fail,” Kabudi said in a speech televised live by state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation.
The summit has brought together 500 delegates comprising captains of industry, group CEOs, investors, the Diaspora, academia, development partners and high-level government officials to undertake an audit of achievements, impediments, prospects and set the economic agenda for the EAC bloc.
Kabudi challenged the private sector to focus investments on infrastructure which was crucial in easing doing business in the region’s market of 200 million people.
“The private sector should invest in infrastructure to ease transportation of goods and services, they should also invest in science and technology,” he said.
“Now is the time to reflect the way forward,” said Tanzania’s top diplomat, adding: “The EAC integration is not a matter of choice but it is a matter of necessity for our own survival.”
Nicholas Nesbitt, chairman of the East African Business Council, organizers of the summit, commended leaders of the EAC member states of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan for their support to the private sector in the region.
Nesbitt said the political will shown by the EAC leaders in supporting the private sector encouraged the sector to participate in efforts toward making the EAC region an economic powerhouse.
Libérat Mfumukeko, the EAC secretary general, said the regional bloc was currently developing an investment guideline for investing in the EAC, adding: “We are committed to promoting investments in the region.”
He said there were vast opportunities for investing in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, railways, telecommunications, renewable energy and human resource development.
“The EAC is committed to working with the private sector in improving the region’s economic growth,” said Mfumukeko.