Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have called on the member states to improvise means of easing doing business among East Africans as a way of deepening the regional economic integration.
The lawmakers believe that for the community to elevate its economic potential, some issues like infrastructural challenges and trade restrictions and other challenges must be immediately addressed to pave way for EAC economic development.
They are members of the EALA committee on communications, trade and investment and are in Kigali to discuss investment opportunities and industrialisation policies in member states.
The meeting is also attended by government officials from different ministries of all partner states.
In an interview with The New Times, Angela Charles Kizigha, the chairperson of the committee said that member states had not done enough to ease and promote the business flows in the region.
“We need to look at development of the key transport infrastructure, especially railways, harbours, roads and ports as well eliminating all trade barriers to facilitate the traders”, she said .
Kizigha added that if the challenges are properly addressed, the intra-trade among the community will make the citizens benefit more from the integration process.
She further reiterated EALA’s commitment towards playing its role in advocating for the removal of all the restrictions.
Economists say that within the region, about 75 percent of the value of exports cover transport costs, and an example they give is Burundi, where the poor road network makes importation of goods from any other member state take even months.
Other hindrances mentioned include unreliable railway transport, different axle load measurements and a myriad of unnecessary roadblocks all add up to the burden of transporters.
Despite the challenges hindering the business community, a latest report indicates that Intra-trade among member states of the East African Community (EAC) doubled over a five-year period, from $2.2 billion in 2005 to $4.1bn in 2010.
The State of East Africa 2012 report was compiled by the Society for International Development (SID) in conjunction with Trade Mark East Africa and it was released recently in Nairobi Kenya.
It says the region is “globalising” rapidly and the value of its total trade with the world doubled from $17.5 billion in 2005 to $37 billion in 2010.
While opening the meeting, Monique Mukaruliza, the Minister for EAC affairs, said deepening of integration will attract more investments adding that more emphasis should be put on increased gross investments.
“Gross investments in our countries currently average 22% of GDP, higher than the sub-Saharan average although this ranges from a high of 29% in Tanzania to 18% in Burundi. As a region we should be targeting a gross investment rate of 30%of GDP with 20% of this coming from the private sector”, she said.
She added that the introduction of duty free trade between EAC states, common customs procedures and the common external tariffs has already benefited industries and attracted investors.
By Eric Kabeera, The New Times