By John Odyek
The private sector are shying away from the business opportunities in the East African Community (EAC).
The commissioner for economic affairs in the Ministry for East African Community, Rashid Kibowa, said: “There is lack of enthusiasm by the private sector on EAC opportunities. There are trade negotiations that the private sector should get involved in.”
Kibowa was speaking at a consultative meeting on the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA)-Southern African Development Community (SADC)-EAC tripartite cooperation at Hotel Africana in Kampala recently. The meeting was organised by the Ministry of East African Community Affairs and attended by the private sector and civil society leaders.
The private sector, however, said they lack resources and capacity to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the region.
They said the opportunities are being snapped up by better resourced Kenyans and Indian entrepreneurs in places such as South Sudan and Somalia where Ugandan soldiers are fighting for peace and stability.
Walusimbi Mpanga, the chairman of the Uganda Services Exporters Association, said Ugandans are contributing to regional peace, but are not gaining economically.
“The few Ugandans in these places are only doing petty business,” he said.
Shem Bageine, the minister for East African Community Affairs, said the political leadership of EAC, COMESA and SADC agreed to establish a Tripartite Free Trade Area in October 2008.
“The purpose of their effort was to support trade, alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life of the African people in line with the African Union goals.”
Bageine said the heads of states agreed during the second tripartite COMESA–EAC-SADC summit in Johannesburg in June 2012, on various key points to underpin the tripartite co-operation framework.
They include enhancing market integration (Free Trade Area), enhancing industrial development, promoting infrastructure development and promoting the movement of business persons.
A free trade area is a trade bloc whose member countries have signed a free-trade agreement to eliminate or reduce tariffs, import quotas and preferences on most goods and services traded between them.