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COVID-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise, East African bloc says

States can tap into it to boost industrial productivity, create jobs and save foreign currency

SATURDAY March 12, 2022

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Chief among lessons the East African Community (EAC) has learnt from COVID-19 pandemic is that the apparent misfortune may eventually have good results.

The EAC Secretariat says the COVID-19 taught the agricultural sector in the region that it can invest in raw materials used to be imported before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Locally produced agricultural raw material will stimulate the manufacturing sector, create jobs and save foreign currency the EAC partner states spend on importing them.

Africa is endowed with favourable climate for producing more agricultural products and saving over $100 billion the continent spends on importing the same.

“COVID-19 has not gone yet, but we can be resilient enough to live with it and prepare ourselves for future pandemics,” EAC Deputy Secretary General responsible for Social and Productive Sectors Christophe Bazivamo says.

East African Community (EAC) Deputy Secretary General (Social and Productive Sectors) Christophe Bazivamo calls on East Africans to be resilient enough to live with COVID-19 and to prepare themselves for future pandemics. PHOTOS \ FILBERT RWEYEMAMU, EAC

Addressing organisers, sponsors, exhibitors and visitors at the Tanzania’s first international agricultural expo in Arusha, Bazivamo says with the forthcoming admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the near future, the market for agricultural products will always be available.

The population of the bloc will jump to 280 million with the DRC admission. “Our cities grow at 13 per cent rate and most of those running to urban don’t engage in agriculture, but have to eat,” Bazivamo tells organisers of the fair dabbed TANZFOOD Expo 2022, adding:

“Keep on growing and targeting the whole of Africa because, in the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the market is all yours.” The EAC has offered 19.2 per cent of products to be sold throughout the continent through the trade arrangement.

Germany envoy to Tanzania Regina Hess says her country is not only fond of trade fairs, it rather has a long history of them; thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic for interrupting the shows for two years now.

German envoy to Tanzania Regina Hess sees the East African Community as a fantastic training ground in exporting, importing or conquering markets.

Participating in the TANZFOOD Expo is a stepping stone towards exporting, importing or becoming a partner in international shows, she says.

“The EAC is a fantastic training ground in exporting, importing or just conquering the market because your product is better,” says Hess, as she advises exhibitors to make use of the TANZFOOD Expo before they dare going overseas.

A project is sponsoring exhibitors in Germany to take part in such expos elsewhere provided the European country sees the potential for gaining from the fairs.

The more the TANZFOOD Expo grows, the more attractive it will be to international exhibitors, including the German ones, who will connect with their local counterparts and link them up with European fairs for exposure, the envoy adds.

EAC-GIZ Cluster Coordinator Godje Bialluch says the EAC producing a wide range of food and vegetables far beyond what it consumes locally underscores enormous potential for agro-processing and export.

EAC-GIZ Cluster Coordinator Godje Bialluch says the cluster focuses on creating market access for the East African’s selected agricultural products.

“We at GIZ focus on creating market access for selected agricultural products such as coffee, tea, spices, cocoa and horticulture to the region and international, especially to the EU market,” she explains.

Agriculture Council of Tanzania Chairperson Jacqueline Mkindi is optimistic the TANZFOOD Expo will provide the private sector with correct information on markets, networking and skills, as the trio was key to success in the sector.

Dr Mkindi, who doubles as the CEO of TAHA Group, appeals to investors to visit the group’s pavilion to be informed of markets for horticultural crops and correct consumption of vegetables and fruits.

“I am glad to see our important partners such as NMB Bank, agriculture cannot thrive without finance,” she says, as she vows to cooperate with organisers to expand and extend the expo to different zones countrywide.

Officiating at the opening ceremony of the TANZFOOD Expo on behalf of Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe, Arusha Regional Commissioner John Mongela commends KILIFAIR Promotion Company Limited for coming up with the concept of the majestic grandeur international fair.

From left Arusha Regional Commissioner John Mongela, German Ambassador to Tanzania Regina Hess, East African Community Deputy Secretary General (Social and Productive Sectors) Christophe Bazivamo and Agriculture Council of Tanzania Chairperson Jacqueline Mkindi share a light moment after visiting pavilions at TANZFOOD Expo 2022, the Tanzania’s first international agricultural fair.

The concept tallies with the sitting government’s attempt to open up the country, invest in and support sectors which touch the majority of Tanzanians and East Africans at large, he says.

Mongela calls on commercial banks to consider increasing products in the agricultural sector, observing: “Agriculture guarantees handsome profits to institutions investing in it.”

According to KILIFAIR co-Managing Director Dominic Shoo, the TANZFOOD Expo 2022 has attracted 140 exhibitors, 95 per cent from Tanzania and the remainder from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

“The fair has the potential for achieving an upward trajectory growth and become one of the largest and leading agricultural trade fairs in the bloc with a multiplying effect to the economy,” he says.

Shoo thanks the Tanzania government for creating a friendly environment for the organisers to lay a red carpet for international players who are key stakeholders in the sectorΩ

MORE INFORMATION: EAC Goal

The East African Community flag (First Left) along with partner states ones. PHOTO | EAC

The EAC intends to reduce post-harvest losses from 40 per cent to at least 20 per cent come 2031. The bloc also targets to increase processed food from 8 per cent to 16 per cent, area for fruit production by 5 per cent to 10 million hectares, vegetable exports to the global market from 416 million to $915 million, fruit exports from $125 million to 350 million, and 4 million direct jobsΩ

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