East African Business Council (EABC) in partnership with Private Sector Federation Rwanda (PSF-R) charted out policy priorities set to reposition Rwanda private sector to ably tap into the EAC Common Market and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), following the CEO Round Table Meeting held at Crown Conference Hall in Kigali, Rwanda.

Mr. Stephen Ruzibiza, CEO PSF-R urged the private sector to push for harmonization of COVID-19 measures at the regional level and policies to tap into the EAC Common Market of 177 million.

Mr. John Bosco Kalisa, EABC CEO stated the importance of trade facilitation, elimination of NTBs and resolution of trade disputes to double intra-EAC trade from the current 15%.

He elaborated that high air taxes and fees increase the cost of air travel in the region. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the tourism, transport &logistics and light manufacturing sectors. He stated that EABC is advocating for fiscal incentives and regional vaccination campaigns to speed up business and economic recovery.

In his remarks, Mr. Denis Karera, EABC Vice-Chair said, “Africa has 8 economic trade blocs and called for clear and friendly Rules of Origin under the AfCFTA to ensure goods flow unabated across the transport corridors in the continent”

Vice-Chairman Karera urged the EAC bloc to finalize tariff offers under the AfCFTA and called for sensitization campaigns to enable SMEs to learn more about the 1.3 billion continental markets. Vice-Chairman Karera stated that a single point for taxation, harmonization & mutual recognition of product standards will ease implementation of the AfCFTA. He urged for a simplified trading regime under AfCFTA and the abolition of visas to ease the free movement of people across the continent.

The Vice-Chair further elaborated that high air transport taxes are unnecessarily and stagnate regional and continental trade.

On his part, Director General Antione Kajangwe, Director GeneralTrade and Investment, Ministry of Trade and Industry of Rwanda said” In line with the Treaty the EAC integration should be led by the private sector.”

Director-General Kajangwe said the Government of the Republic of Rwanda has put in place the economic recovery fund and growth facility to cushion business from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and support access to new markets.

He urged the regional private sector to champion the lifting of barriers to trade in services, intellectual property negotiations, air-transport services liberalization at the Africa level. He called the private sector to spearhead EAC’s industrialization by strengthening regional value chains.

The Chief Guest, Hon. Prof. Nshuti Manasseh, Minister of State in charge of EAC, represented by Ms. Shakila Umutoni urged the private sector to chart out clear policy priorities and mechanisms for successful implementation of the AFCFTA by the EAC bloc.

On her part, Mama Keita, Director of the sub-regional office for East Africa of the United Nations said, “intra-Africa trade share of total trade is at 16%.” She said AfCFTAwill liberalize up to 90% of tariff lines for LDCs within a period of 10 years. She said that the EAC bloc should consolidate to benefit from economies of scale.

The EABC-PSF CEO Round Table was attended by EABC Chairman Emeritus & Chairman of MTN Rwandacell Mr. Faustin Mbundu, EABC Board Directors Mr. John Bosco Rusagara, Ms. Linda Kalimba, Mr. Emmanuel Nkusi and EABC Members: I&M Bank, CIMERWA, African Women In Trade, Omega Logistics, RTC Logistics, Point Constructors, East African Tourism Platform, CFAO Volkswagen, Bio Masters among other business leaders.

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