How Africa can make its big trade deal work for it
7 months ago, 25 Maý 08:04
In 2017, 37 per cent of Kenya’s exports went to an African country, down from 40 per cent the previous year. This caused a near flat growth in export earnings, particularly from East Africa which accounts for more than half of Africa’s total trade with Kenya.
These declining trade levels have spurred interest in the establishment of policies and structures that can boost intra-Africa trade.
Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) has been working with East African Community member states on trade facilitation, with the goal of establishing borderless commerce. Business Daily’s Laban Cliff Onserio talked to TMEA’s chief executive, Frank Matsaert, on the future of regional trade and what can be done to expand it.
Your organisation has been supporting trade and investment in East Africa for more than 10 years and is about to go into Strategy II. What do you have to show for your efforts in phase 1 and what should we expect from this latest initiative?
Our big aim is to encourage job creation through increased trade. I would like to go for a target of about one million jobs. We want to increase trade in the region by reducing the cost of trade. What is different about this latest phase is that we are going to do some pilots to bring in anchor investment aimed at diversifying exports.
The potential for Kenya to attract investment in labour-intensive manufacturing is strong so we want to help that process as part of the President’s Big Four Agenda initiatives. We really want to slot in our work in Kenya and the region. This is what we call a trade logistics cluster approach and it entails developing the necessary infrastructure then work on the trade aspects to bring in plug-and-play factory investments that create jobs. In Kenya, our pilot will be in the factory and garments sector.
You seem to take more of an outside East Africa approach in your next plan of action?
Strategy 2 is about scale-up. What we will be focusing on to reduce trade costs is thinking about efficiency of the transport and trade network. Here we will be looking at East Africa’s external borders. We will be looking at the borders of DR Congo and the Great Lakes as well as borders to the south.
We are also about to begin operations in Zambia and Mozambique and are working on how to bring in Ethiopia to the East African Network. Our target is to lift more than 1.8 million people out of poverty.
Uganda is one of Kenya’s key trade partners. earlier this year you launched the one-stop border post to ease movement of people and goods, how is this going?
Independent surveys of the impact have generally produced positive results. Statistics show that there has been about 70 per cent decline in the time it takes to clear goods at the border and in free movement of people. When we launched the border with the presidents of Kenya and Uganda, I went a day before ...
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