The East African Business Council (EABC) held its 20th Annual General Meeting on 8th August 2019 at Serena Hotel, Nairobi where an election of new leadership was conducted.
During the AGM members re-elected Nicholas Nesbitt from Kenya as Chairman. Nesbitt who was first elected to the EABC helm in June 2018 is also the Chairman of KEPSA. The annual meeting also elected Rwanda’s Denis Karera, Uganda’s Mwine Jim Kabeho and Tanzania’s Salum Shamte as vice-chairs and members of the EABC executive committee.
The opening ceremony was graced by Hon. Adan Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of EAC Affairs and Regional Development, Republic of Kenya. In his keynote address Hon. Mohamed said that EABC should take lead in reviewing the EAC Common External Tariff (CET) and come up with a CET structure that is beneficial to the East African private sector and make the region more competitive. He noted that EAC region was on track with the Customs Union, Common Market Protocol, and Monetary Union. He further noted the importance of public-private dialogue to fast track targeted policy reforms to improve the business environment and reposition the EAC bloc to seize benefits availed by the AfCFTA.
In his remarks Mr. Nick Nesbitt, EABC Chairman urged the EAC Governments to enhance public-private dialogue and formulate policies that will solve logistical challenges, fix fragmented value chains, and enhance value addition of products in the region to be competitive in response to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
Mr. Nesbitt highlighted EABC’s achievements for the previous year including ; Set-Up of Sector-Specific Desks on Trade in Services, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Energy & Infrastructure and SMEs to support members, establishment of EABC-EAC Technical Working Group, EAC Partner States adopting EABC’s Proposal on 10% import duty on sugar for industrial use (HS code 1701.99.10) in 2018/19; during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Budget, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania adopted EABC proposals to increase import duties on over 50 tariff lines under iron and steel products; Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Mandated to take charge of Assuring the Quality and Safety of Food and Cosmetics Products and Salt Manufactured in Kenya.
Peter Mathuki, EABC CEO said: “EABC continues to be the voice of the private sector at the regional level and plays that critical role of advocating for a conducive business environment in the region.” “EABC is awake to the fact that the intra-EAC trade is below 20 percent vis a vis other RECs such as SADC at 40 percent and EU at 68 percent, therefore, there is a need to strengthen public-private dialogue that will spur the regional intra trade to above 30 percent in the next two years,”Mathuki said. He explained that NTBs remains a challenge to the business community and called upon the EAC Partner States to work closely with the private sector towards a non-tariff barrier-free region.
Ms. Rachel Muthoga, KEPSA Deputy CEO, in her remarks, as the host focal point, appreciated the role of EABC in the region which brings together the business community to speak in one voice in pursuit of enabling business environment and spearheading the regional integration and competitiveness agenda in the EAC region. She added that EAC was by far the most integrated regional block in the continent with remarkable economic growth. She emphasized that by strengthening KEPSA’s partnership and regional advocacy through EABC, the Kenyan private sector stand an even greater chance of making EAC the most competitive and attractive region for investment in Africa and reap the most out of AfCFTA.
Waturi Matu, Senior Director, Business Competitiveness TradeMark East Africa said: “The private sector in the region should anticipate challenges to trade, become more results-driven by taking a proactive role to increase exports within and outside the region.” Ms. Waturi urged the EABC to create strong working relationships with its National Focal Points (NFP) to enhance policy advocacy for the benefit of the regional private sector. She concluded by stating that TMEA was keen on supporting the private sector to reduce the cost of transportation of goods across the region; ensure trade facilitation agencies are giving value to members; reduction of National Trade Barriers; and increased exports within the region.
Speaking at the ceremony Eng. Stephen Mlote EAC Deputy Secretary-General, Planning, Infrastructure, Finance, and Administration highlighted that EABC-EAC Technical Committee has been successfully formed. The committee prioritizes and addresses trade and investment issues in a bid to improve the EAC business environment in line with the Treaty aspirations and the 5th EAC Development Strategy
The Annual General Meeting was followed by a Get together – B2B Match Making and networking event for East African SMEs under the Project “Creating Perspectives: Business for Development (East Africa)”. The Chief Guest at the Get-together event was Dr. Vimal Shah, EABC Chairman Emeritus and H.E Annett Gunther, German Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya who shared insights on SME development and strengthening the manufacturing sector in EAC. In his remarks, Dr. Vimal Shah urged businesses to embrace technology and spearhead the vision of a borderless East Africa for trade and investment.