East African businesses need to undertake more dialogues on integration
Last week Uganda business community provided updates to the preparations and initiatives in ensuring the country’s preparedness for complete East African community’s integration process. They lamented imbalance with other regional businesses especially from Kenya and Tanzania. Their complaint was a clear indication that there is an urgent need to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits and challenges of East African Community. Over the past four year, tariffs across the region have been gradually decreasing but having addressed these tariff issues, the focus should be to tackle non-tariff barriers that impede regional trade. Since 2010, the five countries have eliminated import duties of trade tariff lines and as of 2013, almost all duties have been eliminated on regionally manufactured agricultural and industrial products. The priority at the moment seems to be regional economic integration, free movement of goods and people, mainstreaming professionals like lawyers and doctors, food security and inclusive growth among others that bureaucrats in northern Tanzania city of Arusha, the regional headquarters are burning the midnight oil crafting. According to Uganda manufacturers and import traders, East African Community needs to define trade and economic interests in the region.
To Ugandan businesses, it is through sustained and constructive engagements with the private sector that will help them in identifying areas of concern in the regional economies. East African Countries are Uganda markets for exports, raw materials, and intermediate goods as well as a source and destination of investments for Ugandan businesses. There is need to continue the dialogue among government and business through more frequent and focused discussions in areas such as service industry, energy, small businesses, emergency and terrorism preparedness, food security, and internet connectivity and logistics. East African Community countries of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania envision a single market and production base, a highly competitive region, a region of equitable economic development and a region fully integrated into the global economy and unique monetary union in the next ten years. Studies have shown that products that generated much of the regional transactions include fresh and processed fruits such as Banana, Oranges, apples, mango, pineapple, and coconut in Kenya and Tanzania. Others were processed fish, processed meat and vegetables, juice and beverages, handcrafted products, beauty and health, wood and metal products as well as construction materials.