African Press International (API)

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Harmonization of trade – East African Business summit

Posted by African Press International on August 5, 2008

By Leo Odera Omolo

More the 150 business leaders from across East Africa recently gathered in the UgandanCapital City of Kampala to deliberate on how the region could become more competitive in the global arena.

The East African Business Summit was held between July 19the and 20th 2008.

These business leaders were joined in their deliberation by a number of ministers and other public sector players.

For the East African region competitive, individual corporate players would need to be competitive. The CEOs present undertook to build into their business plan messages from the Kampala summit.

But for the countries and the region to be competitive, the business community and governments need to engage in dialogue and to collaborate in bringing about the desired change.

The business leaders identified the need to prioritize actions to be undertaken and to restrict themselves to a small number of cross-cutting, regional issues that they are able to do something about.

The Kampala meeting resolved to put together a Round Table made up of 5 summit participants from each of the countries to do the following:

  1. Be catalyst for the setting up of Round Table grouping in their respective countries to engage the Presidents quarterly on major issues affecting the competitiveness of the region.
  2. Learn from the Round Table groupings in other countries in their regions and share best practice.
  3. Form a regional Round Table made up of the country Round Table grouping for the purpose of harmonizing their approach to over-arching issues.

  1. Seek audience with the presidents of the five countries before the end of the calendar year to present the outcomes of the Kampala meeting, what they are doing about it and the area where the intervention of the political leaders is required.

The conference identified a number of low hanging fruits that the regional Round Table should prioritize. These are the following:

  1. urgent extension of working hours (probably to 24 hours a day) at border crossing points and the standardization of documentation in order to facilitate movements of goods and services.
  2. The urgent updating signing implementation of double taxation protocols among the East African states.
  3. The introduction of one visa for all visitors to East Africa, in order to enhance the attractiveness of the region as a tourist and business meetings destination.
  4. The urgent removal of barriers to the free movement and employment of East African human capital within East Africa.

As far as the longer term initiatives to make the region more competitive are concerned, the meeting considered the improvement of the railway and road network, ports, and energy as priority number one. In this regard, the regional table will engage political leaders from the following far-reaching plans:

  1. the need to plan and develop seamless and standardized arterial rail and road network on a regional basis, not on a country basis. This should be done through regional rail and road boards.
  2. The possible use of professionals in the military to fast-track the building of roads.
  3. The need to enhance efficiency at the ports through concessioning, and finally the urgent need to make investments now to increase power generation to meet the future needs of the region and to distribute the power efficiency across the region.

Sponsors of the Business Summit were Standard Bank Group, Equity Bank, Kenya Railways, Celtel, Mac Group (Exim Bank), Bidco while the official knowledge partners include Strathmore Business School, Kenya Airways, Interbranding Sampson, Skynet Worlwide Express.

The six joint conveners Mr. Richard Ndungu of KPMA, Mr. Charles Muchene of PWC, Mr. Linus Gitahi of the Nation Media Group and Mr. Ade Agegenui of Citi, Mr. Mahamud Jan Mohammed of Serena Hotel and Mr. Joe Wangai of Deloitte.




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