The region’s governments have vowed to support efforts by the private sector to champion growth and boost regional integration.
Last week, Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and other leaders attended celebrations for the East Africa Business Council’s 20th anniversary in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dr Rugunda said the private sector was helping deepen integration by harmonising policies in order to grow intra-regional trade, attract more investments and increase development.
“Since the inception of the EABC, there has been progress towards achieving integration through policy reviews, tax harmonisation, discussions on the Northern Corridor and stakeholder engagements to improve the free movement of goods and services,” Dr Rugunda said.
EABC is the umbrella body for the private sector and corporate associations from the East African Community — bringing together 54 associations and 108 corporate members.
In 2012, the body was granted an observer position at the EAC, which enabled it to participate in relevant regional activities, a chance EABC chairman Jim Kabeho said has helped the body to influence and advocate formulation, implementation or review of different laws at a regional level. This has helped improve the business and investment environment in the region.
According to the 2015 EAC Trade and Investment Report, total intra-EAC trade increased from $1.5 billion in 2005 to $5.1 billion in 2015, but non-tariff barriers like poor infrastructure at the ports and along the main transport corridors continued to impede regional trade.
Mr Kabeho said that in the next three years, the EABC will rebrand in order to position itself for the implementation of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area, launched in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
During the ceremony, several corporates were feted.
Regional lender Equity Group Holdings was awarded the EABC Chairman’s Award and Overall Best Regional Company while KCB was the Best East African Financial Services Company.
Safaricom was named the Best East African Company in Innovation while Bidco Africa Ltd and Siginon Ltd got the Manufacturing and Transport and Logistics awards respectively.
Nation Media Group won the East African Media Company award.
By VICTOR KIPROP : The East African