SMEs

Agribusinesses in East African Community (EAC) countries are to benefit from greater business opportunities in both East African and European markets amid the new initiative funded by the European Union.

Unveiled today in Arusha, Tanzania, the Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) will provide support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region to improve access to EU markets and increase interregional trade.

MARKUP sets out to support East African SMEs specialized in a variety of sectors, including avocado, cocoa, coffee, horticulture, spices and tea.

Interventions will focus on the identification and elimination of barriers to trade; improving competitiveness; strengthening of value addition for selected priority sectors; ensuring compliance with international regulations; provide access to trade finance ventures; and supporting the identification of opportunities for trade and foreign direct investments.

The €35 million MARKUP initiative is funded by the EU as part of the 11th European Development Fund. The programme will be implemented over a four-year period under overall supervision from the EAC Secretariat. Two of the most important technical implementation partners are the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

According to a release copied to Newsghana.com.gh, announcing the launch of MARKUP, Mr Jose Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Tanzania said, “This programme supports EAC efforts to improve the regional trade enabling environment as well as enterprise export competitiveness for a number of products with high growth potential, implying existing supply gaps particularly in Europe, a sufficiently high degree of readiness and sector organisation in order to meet strict quality and quantity requirements and the possibility to tap into higher – than now – price segments.”

ITC Executive Director Arancha González also said, “MARKUP aligns very closely with the regional integration priorities of the East Africa Community. It aims to build the competitiveness of MSMEs across the region, and support them to increase production, take advantage of market-access opportunities and create more value addition.

There is a growing demand in the EU for the products produced in the EAC. MARKUP will capitalize on this and help create sustainable market linkages between Europe and the EAC, and further contribute to job creation and inclusive development in the region.”

The GIZ Country Director, Ernst Hustaedt, said, “The MARKUP project complements the longstanding support of the German Government to the East African integration process. In times where interregional free trade is questioned and voices of protectionism can be heard louder than before, we are especially proud that the European Union has entrusted us with this initiative. We will work closely with the EAC Secretariat and the member Partner States to support the implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol in order to improve the preconditions for trade and value addition in the region.”

Taking advantage of a growing global demand for avocado, cocoa, coffee, spices, tea and horticulture products, selected SMEs will be trained to adapt their agribusinesses to better take advantage of opportunities in regional and global value chains.

Crucial to the success of MARKUP will be the successful inclusion of women and youth in trade. In most East African countries, women and youth account for a large proportion of the labour force, but are often prevented from taking advantage of the economic opportunities provided by increased trade.

Central to MARKUP, too, will be improving the compliance of SMEs with international quality and standards requirements. Improving awareness and transparency related to sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as on technical barriers to trade, will enable participating SMEs to gain product certification that will ease their efforts to enter foreign markets.

A regional Steering Committee chaired by the EAC Secretariat, which will include representation from relevant national ministries, will provide overall direction for the programme. National agencies and trade and investment promotion organizations will support work-plan development and the implementation of MARKUP.

The MARKUP programme has a total estimated cost of €40 million including a €35m contribution from the EU and indicative third party contributions of about €5m, and will be implemented over a four-year period (2018-22).

The programme aims at addressing both supply side and market access constraints of some key export-oriented sectors, namely agro-industrial crops and horticulture, supporting participation in regional and global value chains with a particular focus on exports to the European Union.

The programme is structured around two intervention levels, the EAC-Window and the Partner States Window. The EAC-Window will support EAC efforts to improve the regional trade and business enabling environment for the selected commodities.

It will also support the private sector in enhancing its export competitiveness. The Partner States Window includes national interventions tailored to EAC countries’ specific needs and complementing the EAC-Window where any single country needs it the most.

The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

By:Newsghana.com.gh

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