ARUSHA, Tanzania Apr 26 – With less than three months to the implementation of the East African Community Common Market Protocol, the region’s governments and the business community have come together to work out how to attract and retain investors.
This will be the key focus in the third East African Investment Conference that opens in Uganda from April 27- 30 under the theme EAC Common Market: The Preferred Investment Destination which signals the implementation of the EAC Common Market.
“For EAC countries to stand global market competition, they must organize, unite, stand to be counted. That is why we have to step up concerted efforts to promote the region as one viable investment destination,” said a statement from the EAC Deputy Secretary General of Planning and Infrastructure Alloys Mutabingwa.
The EAC countries will take the opportunity to showcase the various investment opportunities that the region offers, while the conference will also discuss the possibilities of joint partnerships, direct investments, industrial growth and economic development in the region.
Other key topics which will be discussed include climate change and food security, commercialising agriculture, promoting competitiveness and value addition, investment in renewable energy, extractive industries.
“We are fast-tracking reforms that make doing business in all these areas more attractive,” emphasised Mr Mutabingwa.
As in the previous fora, the partnerships in infrastructure development will take centre-stage in this meeting with particular focus being on incentives for joint investment ventures to support the road, rail and maritime transport systems.
“Through infrastructure bonds and other facilities, efficiency in trade flow will rise, and a quicker more effective transit path for goods and people will be established. Without appropriate regional infrastructure, EAC would be balkanised, thus in this conference we re-vitalise discussions on ideal models for harnessing private sector capital in public sector investment that is public-private sector partnership framework,” the statement added.
As EAC continues to showcase its market potential and investment opportunities studies show that cross-border trade and investment are on the rise. The total Foreign Direct Investment has greatly increased with Uganda attaining $200 million; Tanzania US$300 million and Rwanda $799 million. Kenya however lags behind attracting just over $50 million.
A study conducted by the East African Business Council and another by the EAC Secretariat show that there are strong indications that Uganda peaks attraction of cross border investments followed by Tanzania and Rwanda. Kenya remains the largest single source of cross border investment in the region with Burundi being on a steady rise due to its magnificent tourist sites, strategic geographic position as well as natural resources.
All the five countries are striving to be an international investment hub, implementing policies and strategies that are anchored on comparative advantages among them, thus the operationalisation of the fully fledged Customs Union in January 2010 and the implementation of the Common Market Protocol in July this year.
As the region moves towards a fully integrated economic community where goods, capital, labour and services move freely without borders, the 130 million East African citizens stand to enjoy the full benefits of cross border trade and investment while the region’s $73 billion worth of Gross Domestic Product is expected to rise.
The partner states have continuously harmonised their business laws, systems and administrative structures to enhance more trade and investment among them as it strives to build a region that constitutes one market, one destination for investment and business.
The EAC region has been acclaimed as one of the fastest reforming regions in the world thus the reason why it attaches high importance to these conferences with each of the forums is graced with the presence and participation of Heads of States of all the five EAC partner states.
The third EAC investment conference comes just eight months after the second forum in Nairobi, Kenya where President Mwai Kibaki urged the member states to come up with a clear policy that will guide the participation of the private sector in various development programs
The inaugural Investment Conference was hosted by Rwanda in 2008 and brought together more than 1000 participants, amongst them regional and international investors and world business leaders.