Last Tuesday, KEPSA hosted the East African Business Council (EABC) – National Focal Point (NFP) Roundtable Meeting. Convened by EABC, the roundtable purposed to harmonize the policy agenda of the NFPs at the regional level and the NFPs to share their policy advocacy best practices and chanting a way of engaging in the future.
The leaders also deliberated in-depth four agenda points that included collaboration and coordination of the private sector agenda at the EAC level, EABC modalities of working with NFPs, Economic recovery and building back better, African Continental Free Trade Area, EABC-EAC Technical working group and the Green economy and sustainability of natural capital.
In his introductory remarks, EABC CEO, Mr. John Bosco Kalisa observed that the NFPs needed to jointly collaborate in order to strongly push for reforms especially in areas with persistent challenges. Some of these areas included the finalization of the comprehensive review of the EAC Common External Tariff, harmonization of the domestic taxes in the region, push for open-air skies policy among others.
The EABC Chair, Mr. Nicholas Nesbitt who joined the meeting virtually, challenged the NFPs to take advantage of the current political goodwill that exists at the regional leadership to push for reforms, and to be consistent and persistent in doing so. In addition, he challenged the NFP leaderships to engage in solutions that have value add to members beyond the usual advocacy. Also, he challenged Trade Mark East Africa to spearhead a private sector charter in the region that would align the private sector agenda and have a framework of engagement for the private sector.
The NFP CEOs also shared their experiences and best practices of their advocacy work. At the centre of it was KEPSA, which is presumed to be a leader among the NFPs. While sharing the best practices, the KEPSA CEO Ms. Carole Kariuki, took her peers through the Public-Private Dialogue structures and the programs that KEPSA run, in particular the ones implemented in response to COVID-19, which was geared towards reinvigorating the private sector during the pandemic. She took note of the KEPSA strategy that is usually a five-year plan to align with the country’s political calendar. The plan is then filtered into the National Business Agenda that is implemented through the respective Sector Boards with members taking charge of the agenda with the support of technical officers from the secretariat. The other leaders also shared their practices with all of them agreeing for continuous engagement to ensure that they learn from each other and jointly have a harmonized agenda.
In attendance was the EABC, Board Director, Ms. Mary Ngechu who is also the Chair of KEPSA SME Sector Board. She shared her thoughts on engaging and facilitating MSMEs at EAC region. Where she echoed the need to have a dedicated structure/platform for MSMEs at the NFPs and at the regional level. The Platform would serve as avenues for nurturing, developing and mainstreaming the voice of MSMEs.
Lastly, the Senior Private Sector Technical Advisor to the EAC, Ms. Waturi Matu, shared her experience and challenged the NFPs to be pro-active other than reactive on the current issues affecting the private sector. She emphasized the need for the private sector to private sector engagement, and the urgent to enhancing the voice of the EAC voice at the regional level through the AfCFTA PPD.
In summary, the NFPs agreed on the following as a way forward:
- Leverage political goodwill to hold continuous bilateral engagements among EAC Partner States to eliminate trade barriers.
- The need to come up with innovative services geared towards offering solutions to members over and above the usual advocacy
- Call on the EAC Partner States to find amicable ways to reopen closed borders and allow free movement of goods.
- EABC & NFPs to hold quarterly engagements to address new & chronic trade issues, and share best practices.
- Sensitization of the EAC Private Sector on the opportunities & trading protocols in the AfCFTA
- Call on EAC to develop a COVID-19 Certificate to enable mutual recognition and reduce the cost of travelling and moving cargo.
- NFPs to align capacity building of SMEs with relevant business skills
- Formation of MSMEs club at each NFP and establishment of an MSME platform at the regional level for harmonising MSMEs issues
- NFPs to leverage EAC integrated value chains to unlock the potential of SMEs in the region.
- Reviving the NFP Technical Advocacy meetings for technical officers to harmonise their issues