Friday June 29, 2018
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The European Union has launched a four-year multi-billion-dollar initiative dubbed Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) to address both supply and market access constraints, which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are currently facing across the EAC region.
The EAC must carefully scrutinise the programme, given the EU flopped attempts to enter into EPA with the EAC bloc,” Dr Gasper Mpehongwa, former Development Studies lecturer.
The Euros 35-million programme will specifically focus its support on SMEs engaged in agriculture, particularly avocado, cocoa, coffee, tea, spices and several other horticultural crops in all six East African Community member states.
“The EAC must carefully scrutinise the programme, given the EU flopped attempts to enter into EPA with the EAC bloc,” cautions Dr Gasper Mpehongwa, former Development Studies lecturer.
The EAC partner states should look at long-term interests of their farmers, Dr Mpehongwa says. “They should ensure the MARKUP programme, for instance, is in line with the Tanzania’s industrialisation and the Kenya’s infrastructure policies, otherwise it’s just a trap to ignorantly step into EPA,” he adds.
The EAC Secretary General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, however, says EPA and MARKUP are not related. “If we would have a trade agreement, the access of EAC crops to EU would be much easier, but countries in the bloc are still selling many products to the EU even without EPA,” he says.
Mr Mfumukeko believes the MARKUP will deepen participation of women and youths in trade, saying the duo though accounts for a large proportion of the labour force, is not taking advantage of economic opportunities brought about by increased business in the EAC region.
The overarching goal of the MARKUP programme is to improve the SMEs competitiveness, strengthen value addition for selected commodities, ensure compliance with international regulations, provide the SMEs with access to trade finance ventures and to support identification of opportunities for trade and foreign direct investments.
The programme will identify all barriers to SMEs trade with the EU markets and strive to eliminate them.
Its main activities will include developing or upgrading regional standards and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, reducing national level implementation gaps of the EAC standards and coordinating the MARKUP implementation among the EAC partners states.
The EAC Secretariat will in collaboration with technical implementation partners, namely Deussche Gesellschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit — GIZ – and the International Trade Centre (ITC), oversee the MARKUP.
In attendance of the MARKUP launching ceremony in Arusha, Tanzania, on Wednesday were the EAC Secretary General, the Head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania, Mr Jose Nunes, the GIZ Country Director, Mr Ernst Hustaedt and the ITC Executive Director, Ms Arancha Gonzalez.
“Agricultural is the sector with the greatest potential for poverty reduction, as it accounts for about 30 per cent of the EAC gross domestic product, absorbs between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the workforce in the region’s countries and it has most contribution to the region’s exports to the EU,” Mr Hustaedt, says.
He says the consensus on development in line with the UN agenda for sustainable development guides the EU.
“Higher uptake of responsible practices by a wider range of EU companies with supply chain in developing countries, in close partnership with their public and privates sectors will make a strong contribution to the implementation of the 2030 agenda,” he explains.
Mr Nunes says, in turn, that the EAC abounds with products with high growth potential to fill existing supply gaps in Europe, provided the EAC region meets strict quality an quantity requirements.
“A recent export potential assessment conducted by ITC reveals the EAC cash crops have proven to be internationally competitive and offer good prospects of expert within the bloc and the EU markets,” Ms Gonzalez says.