THERE is light at the end of the tunnel for businesses across the East African region, as the East African Community (EAC) decides to revamp the EAC Private Sector Desk.
The action means that businesses across the EAC region will benefit from prompt resolution of persistent trade barriers and disputes as the desk will serve as an interface between the private sector and the EAC Secretariat.
The news was broken at a CEO Roundtable, with the leadership of the Secretariat vowing to promptly address issues disrupting intra-EAC trade to increase trade and investment.
There have been huge challenges in ways of doing business in the region, leaving it with a trade volume of only 15 percent.
EAC Secretary-General, Dr Peter Mathuki had this to say at the Roundtable: “We can increase Intra- EAC trade threefold, in the next five years if we promptly work on resolving some of the impeding Non- Tariff Barriers and consistently hold Public- Private dialogues seeking sustainable solutions to these trade challenges.”
The CEO Roundtable Dinner was organized by the East African Business Council (EABC), Tanzania Chambers of Commerce, Industries & Agriculture (TCCIA) and the Zanzibar National Chambers of Commerce (ZNCC) at Serena Hotel in Dar es Salaam.
Tanzania business leaders in attendance expressed their optimism on market access of their goods into the EAC region following the positive support by President Samia Suluhu Hassan and change of guard at the East Africa Community Secretariat in April.
Tanzania business leaders represented by Mr Paul Koyi, President of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) presented a policy document, with a matrix of intra EAC trade and investment issues.
The private sector is advocating for them to be promptly resolved to Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula and the EAC Secretary General Mathuki.
The captains of industry urged the EAC Secretariat to fast track the harmonization of domestic taxes and elimination of all discriminatory domestic taxes charged to EAC originating goods through the ratification of the EAC Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income.
“Businesses need a conducive environment to thrive, devoid of constant trade barriers. We are optimistic of increased Intra EAC trade with the goodwill from the Governments of the EAC Partner States and the EAC Secretariat,” noted Mr Koyi.
The business leaders reiterated the urgent need for Tanzania to join the EAC One Network Area Country Model to lower the cost of communications and in turn ease doing business in the region.
To resolve persistent Non- Tariff Barriers (NTBs), the players also called for the finalization of the amendment of EAC Elimination of Non- Tariff Barriers Act, 2017.
They also want the activation of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism by operationalizing the EAC Trade Remedies Committee.
They also called for boosting the participation of women in EAC cross border trade and implementation of EAC coordinate approach on the handling of Covid-19 pandemic for economic resilience and growth.
Mr Ali Amour, President of ZNCC urged for quick ratification of the Sanitary and PhytoSanitary (SPS) Protocol.
Other issues that the private sector have recommended include the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreements by all EAC partner states.