Danish minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Christian Friis Bach

The economies of the five East African member states grew by more than 5 per cent last year making the region one of fastest growing in world.

The Danish minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Christian Friis Bach recently said: “The average growth of more than 5 per cent is indeed impressive in a world where economic headlines are dominated by words such as crisis, regression and negative growth.”

“I hope to take back lessons to Europe, which as you might have noticed, actually has had slowed growth,” Mr Bach told an EAC stakeholder forum organised by TradeMark East Africa, in Kenya, Nairobi recently.

The EAC secretary general, Richard Sezibera said: “EAC continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the world..If, as I believe, this century is Africa’s, East Africa is the trailblazer in Africa,” Dr Sezibera said.

Mr Bach said although the EAC is the youngest of the eight regional economic blocs, the region is the most advanced in terms of growth and fast trucked programmes.
He said: “Denmark has experienced huge benefits from the single European market for the past 25 years. I believe all countries in East Africa can reap similar benefits if the single market in East Africa is implemented.”

According to Dr Sezibera, Foreign Direct Investments into the EAC grew from $683 million in 2005 to $1.7 billion in 2010, pointing to the changing fortunes of the region.
He said “Intra EAC trade for 2011 is also encouraging, and is undergoing further analysis before it can be made public.”

The secretary general said the consolidation of the Customs Union, the implementation of the Common Market and the advanced preparation towards the establishment of a Monetary Union, the East African integration has turned full circle and is gathering momentum.

Enhancing diversification
Tanzania’s Trade minister, Mr Chirau Mwakwere said regional integration will enhance diversification of the region’s export basket from primary goods to value added products.”

East Africa, according to Mr Mwakwere, exports about 47 per cent of its total exports to Africa. He said exports to EAC account for over 26 per cent of Kenya’s total exports and that a substantial amount of Kenya’s Foreign Direct Investment is injected into Uganda and Tanzania.

However, Mr Frank Matsaert, the Trademark East Africa executive officer is concerned over the presence of Non-Tariff Barriers that have negatively impacted on growth and the cost of doing business.

He said: “NTBs have slowed the attainment of the full integration and they are likely to erode the confidence that people within the region had placed in the union.”
Mr Matsaert wondered why an exporter would need to pay between $1,000 and $1,200 to ship a container from the US to Dar es Salaam and a staggering $10,000 or $12,000 to ship the same container from Dar es Salaam to Bujumnura.

By Lucas Barasa, Daily Monitor

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