EABC Chairman urges EAC Heads of State to partner with Private Sector in Formulation of regional trade policies

Arusha, Tanzania. As a true strategic partner to EAC integration process, the East African Business Council (EABC) had the opportunity to participate at the 20th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State. EABC has an Observer Status at the EAC and is recognized as a champion of private sector interests in the region in accordance with the EAC Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF).   

Led by EABC Chairman Mr. Nicholas Nesbitt, EABC Board Directors actively participated and represented members of the business community in the region at the 20th Ordinary Summit of the East African   Community Heads of State at the Arusha International Conference Centre, in the United Republic of Tanzania. 

H.E President Paul Kagame of Rwanda took over from H.E President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda as the new Chair of the Summit while the United Republic of Tanzania took over as rapporteur from Rwanda. 

In his remarks as outgoing Chairperson of Summit H.E President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni hinted that the private sector in the EAC region would not grow unless the EAC solves high cost of doing business in the region. He said the high cost of doing business is mainly caused by the following: High cost of power and shortage; high transport costs; low productivity of labour and high-interest rates. 

Rt. Hon Kijevinja, Chair of the EAC Council of Minister informed with the Summit of the EAC heads of State that he witnessed the opening of the new headquarters for the Private sector in the region. 

“Your Excellencies, I want to report that yesterday I witnessed the headquarters of the private sector in the region here in Arusha, Tanzania, “said Rt. Hon Kijevinja. 

Rt. Hon. Kijevinja, welcomed EABC Chairman, Mr. Nesbitt to the podium to address the Summit on private sector agenda in regard to the EAC regional integration process. 

In addressing the 20th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State, Mr.Nesbitt, EABC Chairman appreciated, the work done in the last few days in addressing some of the issues hindering business growth and expansion in the region, in particular, Non-Tariff barriers of which out of 65 NTBs 42 have been successfully resolved. 

“My board who is up here from the East African Business Council we have had a very intense deliberation around what is going to take to be successful in East Africa.  I think if we really get into the heart of it; it’s ensuring that we think regional before we think national, that is very difficult in the heat of the moment, I know private sector influences trade policies selfishly,” said Mr. Nesbitt. 

He stressed that the East African Business Council strives to bring an East African perspective and the drive to manufacture and embark on regional value chains. 

“As East African Business Council, we are paying a lot of attention to the drive to produce! We want to be producers of value! We don’t want to be traders, ”said Mr. Nesbitt. 

He highlighted the need to boost for regional value chains in a bid to reduce the trade deficit with the rest of the world and promote EAC industries to fully capture the East African Common Market of over 150 million people. 

“If, for example, Kenya is going to manufacture or assemble, let me say,  German vehicles in Thika. Why can we have tires from Tanzania, exhaust pipes from Uganda, dashboards from Burundi, so this becomes an East African car, not just a Kenyan car?” said Mr. Nesbitt. 

He emphasized regional value chains will improve regional thinking; support the ‘Buy East African, Build East Africa’ campaign thereby reduce Non-Tariff Barriers. 

“Our vision for the private sector is to let the trucks rumble through Namanga border without stopping. We will use the technology to ensure things are done properly,” said Mr. Nesbitt. 

He noted the need to promote the youth and entrepreneurs by removing barriers to trading across borders, to enable local investors to get economies of scale and additionally foreign investors to see the East Africa Community for what it is, the 150 million people market. 

In his closing remarks, Mr. Nesbitt appreciated the Heads of State for the opportunity to speak and urged them to partner with the private sector. 

“We employ and urge  we as the private sector to get a seat at the table, we have been observers for a long time. We would like to get out of the proverbial stance and come into the field and help in the formulation of trade policies. We want to participate as our heart is in the same place as the legislators,” stated Mr. Nesbitt. 

The  20th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State has rejuvenated vigor for the EAC regional integration process through directives from the Heads of State to implement all outstanding decisions of the Summit; and ratification of all outstanding protocols. Furthermore, the Summit has enhanced dialogue between policymakers and the private sector on EAC regional integration process through commitment from EAC Secretary General and New Chairperson of the Council of Ministers to continue mutual dialogue with East African Business Council. Attached is the Communique of the 20th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State 

Many thanks to TradeMark East Africa supporting the East African Business Council’s involvement in the 20th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and all our partners (GiZ, BDI, ITC) for the continued support to reposition the EABC as the voice and the advocacy platform for the private sector in the EAC integration process in a bid to increase trade and investments in the region.