Such a change of attitude is necessary if the bloc is to increase intra-regional trade from the current 20 per cent to the desired 60 per cent, a top business official has declared.
Speaking during the CEO Roundtable meeting yesterday in Dar es Salaam, EABC executive director Peter Muthika cited a trading regime that restricts the export of certain commodities to partner states, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and double taxation as hurdles to the growth of intra-regional trade.
Despite efforts by governments and stakeholders in addressing a number of trade bottlenecks as well as improving infrastructures, the EAC bloc was still notorious for the high cost of transacting business across borders, he said.
He urged EAC partner states to learn from the European Union where its intra-trade stands at 70 per cent as they invested much of their efforts to address trade barriers in the region.
Muthika said that EABC is prepared to meet governments across the region to present identified priority issues affecting business growth and development of the private sector within the partner states.
The council aims at articulating its leadership role in building a vibrant private sector ecosystem by fostering excellence and increasing national, regional and global engagement with East African governments, people and businesses, he said.
For his part, EABC board member Abdulsamad Abdulrahim said mutual steps need to be taken to boost and facilitate intra-EAC trade and mitigate unfavorable trade positions in the community.
Abdulsamand who is also co-founder and vice-chairman of the Association of Tanzania Oil and Gas Service Providers (ATOGS) also urged increased trade partnerships to improve trade in the bloc.
“We met here today to see how we can work together to address current challenges. We have to cooperate, work together as a family for the region to enjoy the growth of its economies,” he said.
Louis Accaro, the director of membership services in the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) said that TPSF will continue stimulating dialogue within the private sector as a tool for addressing the challenge of limited awareness of market access opportunities among Tanzanians.
“We still need government support to the private sector through the formulation of appropriate policies, the creation of a conducive environment for doing business and investment, and by helping to bring about institutional changes which will help build investors’ confidence,” he said
He appealed for a united private sector in the region to enhance trade links and ensuring that emerging opportunities are well utilized.
The East African Community Secretariat’s draft Trade and Investment Report dated August 2017 showed that the total value of intra-EAC trade fell by 14.6 per cent to $4.4b in 2016, from $5.1b in 2015.
The decline, according to the report, was mainly due to a 33 per cent drop in total trade for Tanzania to $851.3m from $1.3b in 2015. The total trade for Kenya and Uganda fell by 10.1 per cent and 11.4 per cent respectively.