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EAC trade competitiveness better, says new report

The Eastern Africa sub region has taken several concrete steps to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development in the region, in spite of lingering challenges, a new report shows.

The study, “Progress towards sustainable development in Eastern Africa”, acknowledges the progress made in Eastern Africa in deepening regional integration within Regional Economic Communities such as the East African Community (EAC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The report was yesterday presented at Rio+20 Conference by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The report states that the three pillars – economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection – are progressively being integrated in the region which has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world; although high levels of poverty persist.

The study also cites specific joint actions to ensure environmental sustainability, including the EAC climate change policy and strategy; regional guidelines on environmental impact assessment and protocols on natural resources.

“To create wealth, the sub region has taken interrelated actions aimed at reducing supply side constraints, improving competitiveness and fostering advantage,” the study says.

It, however, adds that these actions need to be scaled-up and replicated across the sub region.

Citing various interconnectivity projects between Uganda and Tanzania; Ethiopia and Kenya and Kenya and Rwanda, the study shows that the sub region has taken action to improve trade competitiveness through the improvement of regional hard and soft infrastructure, transparency and predictability of trade and the general quality of the business environment.

The study refers to Article 13 of the EAC Customs Union Protocol, which abolishes non-tariff barriers and the Standards Committee, which has eliminated technical barriers to trade, thereby promoting free flow of goods and services and protecting the health and safety of consumers and the environment.

It also highlights key sub regional actions in agriculture, food security and climate change, describing EAC’s regional climate change policy and strategy as a good example of an integrated approach to the challenge posed by climate change.

“The advantage of a regional approaches are that the skills across the region can be tapped for the mutual benefit of all partner States while the various levels of implementation offer those involved the opportunity to learn from one another with the possibility of technological transfer where necessary and appropriate,” the study observes.

According to the study, the sub region faces serious “implementation challenges and constraints”, including a lack of critical technical capabilities.

The shift to new and sustainable approaches to production, distribution and consumption, says the study, requires whole sets of specialised human, knowledge, logistical and technical resources, which, it says, many of the countries in the sub region lack.

The study, carried out with the assistance of the African Development Bank  (AfDB) underscores the shortcomings in the areas of sound policy and institutional resources that could help create the relevant infrastructure and manage the inevitable tradeoffs in the water, energy and agriculture sectors. The sub region is also still struggling with the impact of HIV and AIDS, it states.

As the main arm of the United Nations on development issues in Africa, ECA in collaboration with the African Union Commission and AfDB, spearheaded Africa’s technical preparations for the Rio+20 process.

By James Tasamba,
The New Times
19 June 2012