PUBLISHED ON September 29th, 2014

Business lobby urges removal of barriers to EAC trade

A regional business lobby has called on the East African Community (EAC) secretariat and its member states to address the challenges that are crippling trade within the bloc.

The East African Business Council (EABC), an apex organisation of the business community in the region, through its chairman Felix Mosha said this during this year’s annual Secretary-General’s forum in Entebbe, Uganda.

“Some of these challenges include, the low pace of implementation of the EAC common market protocol and harmonisation of laws and policies in the region,” said Mr Mosha in a statement read on his behalf by an EABC board member John Bosco Rusagara.

The East African Common Market Protocol, established in 2010, provides for the free movement of goods, labour, services, and capital, meant to boost trade and investments in the region.

The chairman noted that work permits were still highly priced, with heavy paperwork involved which in the end makes the process long and tedious.

Mr Mosha remarked that new non-tariff barriers (NTBs) were now cropping up as the region is grappling to eliminate the old ones.

EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera also echoed the same sentiments at the forum.

“To date, 55 NTBs have been resolved, 22 remain unresolved and six newly identified,” Mr Sezibera remarked.

READ: Non-tariff barriers: Case of one step forward, two steps back for region

Other challenges facing the region include the portability of the social security benefits within the EAC common market.

“There is a challenge of food security and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” noted Mr Mosha.

The EABC also cited access to affordable finance in relation to economic growth in the bloc and ability of banks to facilitate cross-border banking as challenges eating into the regional trade.

“Women in business continue to face challenges in transacting their businesses across the borders due to lack of information and harassment from the officers,” said Mr Mosha.

Poor state of infrastructure and limited participation of the small-scale traders as a result of the challenges facing the agricultural sector in the region were also named as factors limiting trade in the region that EABC wants addressed.

“Therefore, there is need to address these challenges in order to accelerate the regional integration process as well as make EAC our home, our business,” said Mr Mosha.

The council has urged the involvement of the private sector and civil society in regional projects mostly through consultative dialogue frameworks as part of efforts to significantly boost regional trade.

Mr Mosha said that people-centred and private sector driven integration needs to be given prominence and priority in order to build ownership and boost the confidence of the citizens in the EAC integration process.

“The EAC and partner states should enhance the involvement of PSOs (private sector organisations) and CSOs (civil society organisations) in each delegation of the EAC project activities and meeting, adequate consultation,” he said.

He called also on the private sector, civil society and other interest groups to take responsibility and pledge commitments and roles to making the EAC ‘our home, our business’.

According to Mr Sezibera, while all member countries are making efforts in the implementation of commitments in the customs union and common market protocol, some challenges persist in the areas of trade facilitation and movement of people, goods, capital and labour across all EAC countries.

“Some examples include the slow progress in the implementation of commitments related to removal of non-tariff barriers, the poor state of infrastructure, slow pace in the harmonisation of work permits which calls for more effort from governments, private sector, civil society and interested stake holders of regional integration process,” Mr Sezibera urged.

A recent survey conducted by Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority gave mixed results, giving positive signals for Rwanda and Burundi but worrying results for Uganda and Kenya.

Kenya recorded the highest truck-stops at 1264 stops while Uganda had 362.

In Rwanda, drivers were stopped six times, while Burundi and DRC recorded four stops and South Sudan only two, the survey released mid this year reveals.

Over 100 delegates from the partner states attended the third forum since 2012 that seeks to address the challenges and forge way forward to enhance ease of doing business in the region.

Source URL: The East African

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