By Benson Kathuri
Two months after a delegation from the East African Community (EAC) defended their trade policies at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland; it is not yet clear what the team aimed to achieve.
Other than the usual chest thumping saying the region has enormous investment potential, not much in terms of policy and specifics came from the team led by Dr William Mgimwa, Tanzania Finance Minister.
WTO members who included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, Japan, India, Korea, Pakistan, United States, and Turkey, had asked specific questions about the going on in the region and for good reasons.
The world is now looking at the EAC region with a population over 120 million people as a viable market that serious investors from these countries can look at. But the region remains a high cost destination to do business.
The region remains underdeveloped with contribution of manufacturing to GDP remaining relatively low, at less than 10 per cent in general.
Low productivity, underpinned by lack of innovation, the high costs of inputs, including unreliable and expensive power supply, and the unskilled labour force are, inter alia, the main reasons behind the sector’s poor performance.
The potential of the services sector constitutes that remain the main economic activity remains untapped while improvements in transport services and in regulating banking services remain a challenge