US pushes E. Africa to speed up reforms for more investment
Posted Wednesday, July 18 2012 at 20:26
Top advisers to US President Barrack Obama are seeking a joint meeting with the presidents of East African Community (EAC) member states to speed up the opening up of the bloc to international investors.
The officials led by Mr Michael Froman, US deputy national security advisor for international economics, said the forum would provide firsthand understanding of the reform agenda.
“We need information gathered directly at the (heads of state) summit to lobby for investments in our key areas of interest,” Mr Michael Camunez, assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, said in apparent reaction to the wide gap between official statements and implementation of regional agreements.
The officials made the comments during a meeting with Trade Minister Moses Wetangula in his Nairobi office yesterday. Mr Wetangula said he would forward the request to the EAC organs. The heads of state summit is EAC’s top executive decision making organ.
The region’s heads of state will hold their annual summit in November to review progress in regional integration.
This is amid concerns that administrative barriers are still holding back exchange of goods in the 120 million-people market, seven years since the custom union protocol came into force.
The common market protocol launched in July 2010 to ease movement of people, capital and professional services also remains unimplemented.
“The EAC has clearly taken a number of steps to establish a customs union and a common market and in agreeing on a work plan to reduce non-tariff barriers at the border, but implementation is imperfect and the work plan is far from complete,” Mr Froman said at a luncheon organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Nairobi shortly after the meeting with Mr Wetangula.
The US officials said they were in the country to follow up on pledges that the African delegation made during the Agoa Forum 2012 held in June in Washington.
The African trade ministers had committed to promote regional integration to boost intra-regional trade volumes, which at the moment stands at a paltry 10 per cent against 90 per cent trade with destinations outside the continent.
“Compared to a few years ago, border crossing is now easier for trucks and firms are taking a short time to deliver goods to markets across the region,” Mr Wetangula said.
He added: “We are just waiting for approval of membership of a number of countries, which have sent their applications such as Southern Sudan, for us to enhance the economies of scale.”
Other pledges made to the US by African ministers include expanding the list of items for export under Agoa beyond textile and natural resources. On its side, the US government also committed to encourage its citizens to invest in Africa.
“So far, American investors are focusing on renewable energy resources such as geothermal and wind power in Kenya and natural gas in Tanzania, but we are soon going to figure out creative ways to intervene in transport infrastructure and other long term issues,” said Mr Froman.
Yesterday, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi told journalists that the goverment was in talks with American firms such as General Electric to invest in renewable energy development.