TradeMark happy with East Africa trade indicators
TradeMark East Africa has announced that it will inject about $90m (about Shs 261bn) to promote infrastructural development projects in the region.
The announcement came after some data showed that trade in the region had picked up partly as a result of the ease with which cargo is cleared throughout the different corridors, an initiative that TradeMark East Africa was active in facilitating.
“This year we are focusing [to invest] around the same about $85 to $90m. The results presented in this annual report point to an ever-improving trade environment which is expected to spur investments and ultimately benefit the citizens of East Africa,” said Frank Matsaert, the CEO TradeMark East Africa.
He continued: “TMEA is playing an important role as a catalyst in mobilizing around $600 million at Dar es Salaam port to improve its performance through better infrastructure and port operations. Our partnership at both Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports involves an innovative approach, mixing hardware and software solutions.”
Matsaert was speaking at the launch of their annual report 2013/2014 at Sheraton hotel in Kampala on Tuesday. He said TMEA had made strides to improve informal trade across borders. He added that since traders do not usually use formal systems and structures for their transactions, it was difficult for regional trade policy initiatives to have any significant impact on their lives.
TMEA notes that the continued support to the national bureau of standards in achieving regional harmonisation of standards has seen 108 standards harmonized to date, 41 of which were adopted as EAC standards as of December 2013, and an additional 42 will be considered soon.
This, according to TMEA, will bring the total number of adopted East African Standards to 83, representing seven of the 20 most traded intra-EAC goods, which accounts for more than $1bn of the annual trade basket in the region. The report shows that some of the challenges the organisation has grappled with in the last year include: increased threat of violence and terrorism, and the increased depreciation of the shilling against the dollar.
“The dollar is doing very well because the US economy has picked up nicely. That means US interest rates are likely to rise and that is why we see a bigger appreciation of the dollar. That’s something that is not affecting just the East African currencies but also lots of other currencies around the globe. So, the appreciation of the dollar is something that is going to continue for a while and that’s something we are monitoring closely as TradeMark,” said Matsaert.
According to data from the Uganda's ministry of trade, export earnings may fall by about Shs 380bn this year if the instability in South Sudan drags on. The volume of exports to South Sudan declined to about 60 per cent since the unrest erupted in 2013. South Sudan remains one of Uganda’s largest trading partner, with the country fetching about Shs 890bn in export revenue from the world’s youngest state, according to data from the ministry of Trade.
The five partner states of EAC are currently involved in activities related to standards harmonisation for products traded with the region. Amelia Kyambadde, the minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, said: “The launch of the communications and awareness campaign for standards mark is a big milestone in Uganda’s history. Not only will it improve the demand for quality products on the Ugandan market, it will also go a long way in making Ugandan’s products very competitive across borders in the EAC.”
Meanwhile, the report points out that women play a key role in East African trade and could potentially contribute towards boosting trade in the region by taking advantage of the available opportunities. It further states that the various specific non-tariff barriers and other challenges impede trade activities undertaken by women, often leaving female traders and producers with limited means to enter the formal economy.
Edith Mwanje, the permanent secretary at the ministry of East Africa Community Affairs, said: “I am glad that TMEA has focused on female informal traders who are responsible for up to 60 per cent of all intra-East African trade through initiatives such as the East African initiatives for the advancement of women.”
TMEA has partnered EAC since 2011. The pillars of this partnership include ensuring coherence and synergy within the EAC development strategy and building trade competitiveness within the region.