The East African Community (EAC) recorded a 13.4 per cent growth in its total trade in 2022, reaching $74.1 billion (Sh10.55 trillion), according to data released by the regional body.
The Secretary General of the EAC, Peter Mathuki, attributed the growth, partly to the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a member of the regional bloc in July 2022.
He said that the entry of the DRC, which has a population of over 100 million and a GDP of $48 billion, expanded the market size and opportunities for trade and investment in the region.
EAC member states are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the latest entrant, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which joined in April 2022.
Mathuki said that the total intra-EAC trade also grew by 11.2 per cent to $10.9 billion in 2022 from $9.8 billion in 2021, reflecting the benefits of regional integration and cooperation.
In addition, the percentage share of intra-EAC trade to EAC total trade stood at 15 per cent in 2022, and showed a positive trend in 2023, with 16 per cent in January and 19 per cent in February recorded.
"EAC total trade increased by 13.4 percent to US$74.1 billion in 2022 from US$65.3billion in 2021. Intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2 percent to US$10.9billion in 2022 from US$9.8 billion in 2021" –@pmathuki pic.twitter.com/MPyYr6uWO7
— East African Community (@jumuiya) August 16, 2023
Resolving Non-Trade Barriers
However, the region is hindered from realizing the full potential of intra-EAC trade, by non-tariff barriers (NTBs), infrastructure gaps, customs inefficiencies, and policy inconsistencies.
Mathuki said that the EAC had resolved 26 out of the 33 NTBs that had been reported as of June 2023 and was working on eliminating the remaining ones.
On the other hand, the implementation of the Single Customs Territory (SCT), which is a stop-gap measure towards the realisation of a fully-fledged Customs Union in the EAC, had reduced the turn-around time from an average of 21 days to four days along the EAC corridors.
He added that the SCT had enhanced revenue collection, reduced costs of doing business and improved transparency and accountability in the region.
Mathuki expressed optimism that the EAC would continue to enhance its trade performance and competitiveness in the global market, especially with the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which offers a larger market of over 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of over $3 trillion.
He urged the EAC partner states to harmonise their policies and regulations, improve their infrastructure and logistics, diversify their products and services, and promote value addition and industrialisation to boost their trade potential and resilience.
He also called for more private-sector involvement and public-private dialogue to address the challenges and opportunities in the regional trade landscape.