MONDAY April 29, 2019
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the East African Business Council (EABC) have jointly started implementing Euros 35-million EAC-EU programme launched in Arusha mid last year.
European Union and East African Community (EAC) launched the four-year initiative dubbed Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) to address both supply and market access constraints facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in East Africa.
MARKUP targets SMEs engaged in agriculture, particularly avocado, cocoa, coffee, tea, spices and several other horticultural crops in all six EAC partner states.
It is structured around two intervention levels: the EAC and the partner states windows. While the Germany international development agency, GIZ, will be covering the bloc, the ITC will work on the national level.
A master trainer cohort comprising officials from the partner states and focal points of the EABC was in Arusha recently to, among other things, horn its skills on the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facility Agreement (TFA).
Adopted in 2014 and entered into force in February 2017, the WTO agreement sets measures for expeditiously moving goods across borders.
Inspired by best practices from around the world, the agreement assists and supports countries in achieving that capacity.
The specific mandate of the ITC, a joint agency of the WTO and the UN, is to support businesses, particularly SMEs, in joining and enhancing their competitiveness in international trade.
The focus of the training, therefore, was on imparting the lead trainers on skills of leveraging the TFA in removing all inefficient and costly procedures to ensure the private sector takes advantage of the national and regional reforms.
They included skills on removal of legal, political and procedural barriers that prevent countries from cooperating and enjoying the integration and also on establishing institutions and other mechanisms for better cooperating with each other.
“This is exactly one of the specific mandate of the MARKUP Programme,” Ms Victoria Tuomisto, an associate expert with the ITC Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business Division of Marketing Development, said.
She said the training was supporting longstanding efforts of the region in integrating into the region of trade, people, goods and capital on its journey towards a fully-fledged bloc.
The EABC executive director, Mr Peter Mathiku, said the East African apex body of the private sector was ready to stand up to the challenge the EAC Chair Paul Kagame sounded recently.
Rwanda President Kagame urged decision making processes to put the private sector at its centre.
“We’re here to equip ourselves with necessary skills for supporting and promoting the ease of doing business in the region,” Mr Mathuki said.
He said trade facilitation was an important tool in dealing with challenges arising from the EAC integration and African Common Free Trade Area.
Non-Tariff Barriers and double taxation were major hiccups inhibiting the EAC intra-trade, despite all partner states signing Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and ratifying it, save for Tanzania and Burundi.
“EAC intra-trade is still at about 20 per cent compared to Europe 68 per cent and SADC 48 per cent,” said Mr Mathuki, cautioning that the region’s economy would not grow unless partner states traded among themselves.
EAC is a major exporter of cash crops to the EU. A recent export potential assessment conducted by ITC reveals the bloc’s cash crops have proven to be internationally competitive and offer good prospects of export within the bloc and the EU markets.
The MARKUP initiative, which is part of the new European Consensus on Development in line with the UN agenda of Sustainable Development, therefore, aims at supporting participation of the EAC in global value chains by enhancing competitiveness of the bloc’s exports for it to exploit in full its trade-driven growth potential.