Lobby roots for removal of EAC non-tariff barriers


East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture president Richard Ngatia. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Regional trade lobby, East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (EACCIA), is pushing for the elimination of more non-tariff barriers, including import quotas and customs delays to grow the annual trade among partners.

Speaking during a two-day Zanzibar business conference, EACCIA president Richard Ngatia said while the region has benefited from several trade liberalisation schemes, much more is needed on the elimination of non-tariff barriers to grow EAC economies and position the region to reap from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“Collaborative efforts among governments, the business community, and the private sector are imperative to address regional challenges. EACCIA will advocate for tariff elimination and collaborate with regional government institutions to harmonise trade policies, standards, and regulations,” he said.

“Our collective engagement should explore next-generation trade and investment issues, strengthen financial markets, and foster robust cooperation among stakeholders to ensure sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth.”

The EAC data shows intra-EAC trade, accounting for imports and exports in the bloc’s partner states, grew by 15 percent to $9.5 billion (Sh1.46 trillion) at the end of 2021 and crossed $10 billion (Sh1.54 trillion) mark last year — a figure EACCIA says can grow much further by dropping the protectionist stance and deepen trade integration in a region of more than 283 million people.

The region has made strides in promoting trade through common external tariffs on imports and exports but non-tariff barriers, including import licensing, pre-shipment inspections, rules of origin and custom delayers continue to restrict intra-EAC trade.

“For the region to grow, we need better logistics. But the most important is that we have a common goal to remove non-tariff barriers in EAC. We have a long way to go but the good thing is that we have started,” said Toufiq Turky, patron at EACCIA.

The push for removal of non-tariff barriers received the backing of Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi who in an address delivered by his Trade and Industrial Development minister Omar Shaaban said such a move would allow for a private sector-driven regional integration.

“I welcome the call by the president of EACCIA that it is time to connect members of EAC blocs to other regions so that we can take advantage of the opportunities that AfCTA offers,” he said.

Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce chairman Ali Amour said the formation of EACCIA, whose board was inaugurated during the conference, would open a new chapter in the regional commerce spread in different sectors.

The event saw EACCIA launch its five-year strategic plan running up to 2027 in which it is seeking to deepen cross-border trade and investment. EACCIA was incorporated in September 2005 and formally launched in February 2006.

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