East African Community Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki said in Mwanza last week when opening the 21st Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) trade fair that such businesses play a crucial role in the economic development of East African countries.
Dr Mathuki pointed out that MSMEs account for 90 percent of businesses and 80 percent of jobs in the region, especially among youth and women.
“As a community, we have the responsibility of enabling MSMEs growth to ensure long term sustainability and recovery of economies in the region,” he noted while noting that EAC member states still have a crucial role in empowering MSMEs growth to ensure long term sustainability and recovery.
He official informed the exhibitors that the theme for this year recognises the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on trade and places greater emphasises on quality and innovation as critical paths to enhance competitiveness.
Dr. Mathuki commended efforts of MSMEs for their resilience in adopting new business models to enable business continuity during the post Covid-19 era. He called for the member states to equally encourage research and development as requisites for innovation and growth.
“Malaysia’s national commercialisation platform, PlaTCOM Ventures, is a good example in helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful products and services. The development of micro-industrial parks with shared equipment and resources could incubate the next generation of manufacturers,” the EAC Secretary General added.
He however, challenged EAC countries to provide all necessary support to ensure that MSMEs are export-ready and ready to compete with more prominent players and offer alternatives to imported goods.
According to him, lenders and financial institutions have already driven a significant number of initiatives in East Africa to support MSMEs, including the suspension of loan repayments, fee waivers, relief loans, and expedited loan approvals in an effort to support post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
“I am confident that through collective and collaborative Covid-19 economic recovery efforts at national and regional levels, we will be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of MSMEs business output,” Dr Mathuki noted.
Speaking at the same event, Minister for Industry and Trade, Professor Kitila Mkumbo said that the main objective of the EAC MSMEs Trade Fair was to provide a platform for enhancing marketing linkages for the group’s products and services within the region.
Prof Mkumbo said that the fair was also geared at enabling the MSMEs access the existing regional market with a population of over 150 million people.
He reaffirmed the six member states’ commitment to the EAC regional integration initiatives, such as the ongoing exhibition, adding that the key component for the integration agenda was doing business together as the community.
“As EAC partner states, we have agreed to address challenges impacting the growth and development of MSMEs and industries in the region by developing policies that will facilitate cross-border business,” he said while further noting that some partner states are now establishing mechanisms to facilitate access to affordable capital by the group.