Bolstering trade to enhance East African economic integration
The Government of Finland has committed four million Euros to TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) - a multi-donor funded development agency working with national governments, the private sector, civil society and the East African Community (EAC) - to support regional economic integration over the period 2013 to 2015, by enhancing trade and so prosperity in the region.
“TMEA is a key strategic partner in growing trade and prosperity in the region. Facilitating regional trade is an effective means to alleviate poverty and create welfare. It must also be remembered that integration is not only about economics. Integration does much to enhance peace and stability,” Finland's Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala said recently.
The funding goes to TMEA to reduce barriers to smooth and efficient commerce across the EAC bloc to bring prosperity and opportunity to its 160 million citizens. TMEA supports multiple partners across the region to achieve growth in trade.
A strategy for action
Finland’s strategy for development cooperation and action plan for aid for trade put more emphasis on the development of trade and regional economic integration. The Finnish government believes that supporting increased trade in the region in combination with assistance to the private sector will accelerate economic growth and jobs, with the ultimate goal of poverty reduction. Finnish Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade, Alexander Stubb said, “The Finnish government is keen to create opportunities for business partnerships, trade & investment and transfer of knowledge and technology. I am excited about TradeMark East Africa’s (TMEA) comprehensive programme to increase trade, reduce trade barriers and transport costs and increase the pace of economic integration in the region.”
The key areas for the grant will include work with TMEA’S’s core partners on reducing the costs of trade in the region, focusing on:
- Promotion of infrastructure projects - such as port development, to boost trade.
- Efficiency and infrastructure improvements at key border crossings in East Africa.
- Support to regional private sector growth.
- Removal of non-tariff barriers to trade.
- Strengthening the trade environment and progress on East African regional integration.
Focused on growth through trade
TMEA CEO Frank Matsaert said, “TradeMark East Africa will continue to focus its efforts on increasing trade and prosperity, primarily through investing where there will be the biggest impact for East Africa’s people and private sector. Our approach – under the leadership of the East African Community – is to focus on national implementation with an emphasis on reducing the high costs of trading across the region.
“This involves investing in key regional infrastructure projects that reduce trade costs and increase trade – such as one stop border posts (OSBPs) and the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam – combined with improvements in systems to drive results. All these activities are essential to sustain the region’s growth rates and reduce poverty.”
TMEA and its partners are trying to reduce the costs of transport to and within East Africa – some of the highest in the world – to reduce the costs of imports and grow private sector commerce and government revenues. TMEA conducts its work out of its headquarters in Nairobi, and it operates branches in Arusha, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Juba, Kampala and Kigali.