The East African Community (EAC) has celebrated 20 years of regional integration in a business and investment summit held in Arusha, Tanzania.
The two-day event, which kicked off on Thursday, saw over 5000 participants drawn from the EAC Council of Ministers, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), captains of industry, investors, the development partners, academia, among others attend.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, EABC Chair Mr. Nick Nesbitt said the regional Private Sector has witnessed a remarkable transformation with great achievements for the last 20 years.
“We now have a Common External Tariff (CET), roll out of a Single Customs Territory, introduction of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS), construction of the One Stop Border Posts, and operationalization of a Simplified Trade Regime for goods with value less than USD 2000,” said Mr. Nesbitt.
The Chair also said there is need for the Private Sector to influence and advocate for formulation, implementation, review and harmonization of different policies, laws at regional level in a bid to improve the business environment and make it conducive for trade and investment.
He noted than this can be achieved by harmonizing air transport policies, calling tariffs and local content policy for ease of movement and doing business within EAC.
“Let us engage in conversations about the future of East Africa business because if it’s not us, who will?” said the EABC chair.
EABC CEO Hon. Peter Mathuki said EAC is one of Africa's fastest growing regional blocs and hence the need to make it the investment destination for Africa.
“We need to come up with policies that will increase Intra-EAC-trade from 12 percent to about 40 percent” said Hon. Mathuki
Tanzania Minister for Foreign Affairs Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi delivered President John Pombe Magufuli’s message, encouraging participants to learn from Germany, Netherlands and EU on free movement of labour.
The minister emphasized on the role of the private sector in driving growth and the contributing towards the regional integration agenda.
“Participation of the Private Sector in regional integration is not a choice but a necessity” said Kabudi.
Also present was the EAC Council of Ministers Chairperson Vincent Biruta, who commended EABC for representing the interests of the private sector in influencing policies that improve business environment in the region.
Biruta also noted that in 2018, real GDP in EAC region grew by 5.7 percent slightly less than 5.9 percent in 2017 and the highest among African regions.
“This year, the economic growth stands at 5.9 percent and we estimate it to grow by 6.1 percent in 2020” he said.
The theme for the Business Summit is Private Sector-Driven Regional Integration for increased intra-EAC trade and investments.
EAC Partner States are yet to implement an Agreement that will avoid Double Taxation and prevent Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, a law that was agreed upon by 5 EAC member States in November 2010.