The Summit aims to deliberate on challenges, and opportunities and chart out policy recommendations to support prioritization of the SME Agenda at the EAC region

KAMPALA, Uganda: The East African Business Council [EABC] convened Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda and outlined priorities to deepen SMEs’ role and contribution to EAC economic growth and officially launched the East African SMEs Platform.

In her remarks during the East Africa SMEs Summit organized by EABC with support from GIZ, Mrs. Mary Ngechu, EABC SMEs Goodwill Ambassador said “The Summit aims to deliberate on challenges, and opportunities and chart out policy recommendations to support prioritization of the SME Agenda at the EAC region.”

She elaborated that SMEs need to be given the prominence they deserve as they make up over 90 percent of traders, contribute 60% of employment and 29% to the GDP of the EAC region.

Hon. Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi, Executive Director of the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) said “Economic empowerment of women is important” She urged women cross border traders & SMEs to merge into cooperatives and tap into bigger markets opportunities with more ease.

Mr. Lamech Wesonga, EAC-GIZ Advisor AfCFTA Trade-in Goods said “GIZ is committed to supporting SME’s growth to boost their contribution to the EAC economies and take advantage of opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.”

The Chief Guest, Mr. Stephen Mbogo Kirya, Ag Asst. Commissioner, from the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Cooperatives said SMEs are central to economic development. He explained SMEs employ 2.9 million people in Uganda.

Mr. Kingsley Melita Kipury, Director, Strategy & Partnerships SME Advisory Unit, Office of the President of Kenya said the EAC SMEs’ charter is under review to align it to new developments and needs of enterprises in the region. 

Mr. John Bosco Kalisa, CEO of EABC said “low update of digital tools, losses due to currency conversion, Non-Tariff Barriers, poor access to affordable finance, lack of awareness of trade procedures continue to hinder the growth and contribution of SMEs to intra-EAC trade.”

On his part, Mr. Steve Machage said EABC with support from International Trade Centre has developed an online digital portal to enable SMEs to connect and trade and showcase their products.

The East African SME Summit offered a platform for SMEs to share their views on the review of the EAC SME Charter. Among the challenges highlighted include inadequate Government departments’ support, limited access to appropriate technology, lack of information on market opportunities/access, and supply side constraints.

Through trading across borders, SMEs get exposed to quality standards, and superior technology enhancing their competitiveness. Global Value Chains (GVCs) and the digital economy provide another avenue through which SMEs can effectively participate in regional, continental (AfCFTA) and international trade. 

The EAC SMEs Summit charted out the following priorities:

  • East African SME Platform to articulate SMEs proposals in EAC policy decision making
  • SMEs to fully take part in the review of the EAC SMEs Charter
  • EAC Partner States to develop directorates in charge of SME development
  • Government policy interventions to be aligned to  the different SMEs’ segments and needs
  • Governments to allocate procurement opportunities to SMEs
  • Opening of borders and elimination of barriers to trade
  • Development of  establishment of industrial parks for SMEs to improve  value addition and industrialization
  • Boosting  digitalization and digital transformation
  • Easing access to affordable finance for SMEs
  • Improving Entrepreneurship  & Skills
  • Training and simplification  of trade information & procedures for SMEs
  • Information sharing on SME development & success stories in the region
  • Development of Incubator centers and Common facilities for SMEs
  • Enhancing  competitiveness through clustering of SMEs 

EABC is the regional apex body of private sector associations and Corporates from the 6 East African countries. It was established in 1997 to foster the interests of the private sector in the integration process of the East African Community. EABC vision is a borderless East Africa for business and investment. The primary mission is to promote sustainable private sector-driven growth in the EAC.

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