The Trade and Regional Integration Project (TRIP) for EAC was announced by EAC Secretary-General Dr Richard Sezibera and ITC Executive Director Arancha González on the margins of the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December.
The new initiative aims to strengthen existing efforts by East African countries for closer economic integration, including the East African Customs Union, and the 2010 establishment of the EAC Common Market.
The TRIP for EAC project also sets out to support the African Union’s Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and the recently agreed tripartite free-trade agreement among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the EAC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Specifically the project aims to boost the competitiveness of EAC-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), enabling them to step up intra- and inter-regional trade. The project will have a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment, and will also support wider private-sector development in the EAC to spur deeper economic integration, including in agriculture, information and communication technologies (ICT), and tourism.
‘Regional integration led by the private sector is a powerful vehicle for boosting growth, creating jobs and promoting economic development,’ Ms González said. ‘Enabling the private sector and policymakers to take advantage of trade opportunities is at the heart of what ITC does. We are looking forward to doing this in collaboration with the EAC, and to ensuring sustainable growth for East African countries and their SMEs.’
Dr. Sezibera said: ‘This cooperation will contribute to improve the global competitiveness of our region and to trigger sustainable economic growth.’
Implementation of the five-year US$ 8.5 million TRIP for EAC project is set to begin in January 2016. The Government of Finland has pledged to provide initial funding.
ITC and the EAC will intervene at three levels to provide integrated solutions to problems of SME competitiveness. At the enterprise level, they will work to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs in selected sectors, with a strong focus on women entrepreneurs. At the institutional level, they will work to strengthen trade and investment support institutions, enabling them to better serve their SME clients, especially on export development and international marketing services. Finally, at the trade policy level, the project will aim to enhance the business environment through improving trade facilitation and public-private dialogue to ensure that reforms correspond to business needs.