, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – The regional business community is gearing up for the second East African Investment Conference to be held in Nairobi from July 29- 31 of July.
East African Community Secretary General Juma Mwapachu said on Monday that the conference would focus on creating a viable and vibrant regional block despite challenges presented by the current global financial crisis.
“With this crisis there also arise opportunities and the conference will look at ways of turning around the bad situation we are in,” said Mr Mwapachu.
One of the ways he proposed for combating the economic meltdown was bolstering ties between member countries to work in unison instead of against each other.
“With increasing trade activities across the region it is necessary to advise investors on opportunities that would be beneficial to them and their countries whose theme is ‘Invest in East Africa where global challenges are opportunities’,” Mr Mwapachu explained.
Among the proposals to be discussed during this year’s meeting will be the creation of a single capital markets regulatory arm in the region.
As the five economies work towards becoming one, the EAC secretariat believes the move will increase investment opportunities.
“It is important to have a single capital markets regime where all East Africans can feel easy and free to purchase shares floating in the different stock exchanges with the vision of having a single stock exchange.”
As the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) conference fast approaches, constituent members are also being encouraged to work as a block to promote the area as a single market and investment zone.
The three day conference hopes to attract over 2000 delegates from across the region.
At the same time Mr Mwapachu applauded Kenya for leading the way in terms of regional investment creating jobs and increasing tax revenues in the region.
There are a reported 270 Kenyan companies operating in the region and Mr Mwapachu called on other countries to follow suit with particular interest in Rwanda and Burundi.
Between 2004 and 2007, the volume of trade within the community increased by 22 percent while the total EAC trade with the rest of the world rose by 26.8 percent up from 22.8 percent in 2006.
Mr Mwapachu said the 22 percent growth in inter-regional trade is significant given other regional economic communities averaged 10 percent growth in inter-regional trade.