The region’s private sector lobby group disclosed the investment figures recently in Dar es Salaam at the 2nd East African Business and Entrepreneurship Conference and Exhibition.
The event attracted over 300 high-level government and private sector decision-makers from the EAC Partner States as well as business leaders, East African Diaspora and investors from across the region and abroad.
The event was co-organised by EABC, Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), and the East African Community (EAC).
EABC said in a press release that in 2015, the total value of intra-EAC investments increased by 14.5 per cent from US$207.7 million in 2014.
Established in 1997 to foster interests of the private sector in the integration process of the East African Community, the East African Business Council (EABC) is a top advocacy body of business associations of the private sector and corporations from the bloc’s member states.
Business leaders attending the event vowed to promote entrepreneurship and attract more foreign and local investments in the region.
EABC Jim Kabeho and East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko said that in order to accelerate promotion of cross border trade and investments in the bloc, SMEs should be put in focus.
“In the EAC region most entrepreneurs are SMEs which play a key role in our economies. They form the backbone of the growing middle class in our region accounting for 29 percent of gross domestic product and 90 percent of registered firms,” Kabeho said.
According to the 2014 EAC Trade Report, Tanzania and Uganda attracted the largest amount of cross border investment from the region with the former receiving U$104.1million while the latter got U$75 million.
Dennis Karera, the Managing Director of Kigali Heights, an office block in Kigali whose construction was funded by a Kenya-based company called Fusion Capital, lauded efforts by East African companies to invest in the region.
“It is remarkable to see Kenya investing in other EAC countries,” Karera said at the meeting.
It is expected that the conference will offer regional business leaders an opportunity to critically discuss how to encourage entrepreneurship and attract more foreign and local investments into the region. Among other issues, the delegates discussed the current policies and missing links to accelerating industrialisation, innovation, and investment in the EAC.
Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan graced the official opening of the event. In her speech, she told the delegates that the region needs to improve agriculture productivity and build capacity of SMEs.
“We need to increase value of our agriculture products for our industries rather than relying on imports, empower SMEs and provide women and youth with economic opportunities,” Hassan said.
Meanwhile, a Rwandese industrialist has said that the industrial sector in the region should take advantage of the East African Community (EAC) 150 million people and opportunities created by the regional Common Market Protocol to stimulate demand and competitiveness.
Alphonse Kwizera, the Rwanda Association of Manufacturers (RAM) technical expert, said the success of the EAC industrialisation programme will depend on the manufacturing sector’s ability to leverage the opportunities the bloc and other markets on the continent present them to deepen their reach and become sustainable.
Kwizera added that a fully functioning common market and deepening of regional integration through a monetary union could provide the much-needed stimulus to drive industrial growth across the region.
The RAM official was speaking after the release of EAC Industrial Competitiveness Report 2017 on Friday by the East African Community secretariat, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Government of Korea.
The report with a theme, ‘Harnessing the EAC Market to Drive Industrial Competitiveness and Growth’ assesses the region’s industrial performance vis-à-vis other regions and role models in Asia and Africa, and sheds light on strategic short and long-term industrialisation paths that the EAC should pursue.
It also provides a compass to policy-makers, the private sector, particularly manufacturing firms and associations, and other stakeholders on the broader direction of the EAC industrial development trajectory and the internal competitiveness dynamics among partner states. It also points out the need to embrace uniform and sustainable approaches that will help boost competitiveness of manufacturers in the region.