EAST African Community (EAC) Market Access Upgrade Programme’s (MARKUP) first Steering Committee meeting has started at the community’s headquarters yesterday.
EAC Director General for Customs and Trade Directorate Kenneth Bagamuhunda officiated the meeting, saying the overarching goal of MARKUP was to contribute to the economic development of the region through increasing the value of both extra and intra-regional agricultural exports, focusing on exports to the European Union (EU).
“It is meant basically to promote increased regional and international trade through improved competitiveness as well as value addition for enhanced trade and investment,” said Mr Bagamuhunda.
He commended the EAC partner states for engaging in dialogue with the EU and other partners to guide the programme’s scope and approach.
Mr Bagamuhunda was speaking on behalf of the EAC Secretary General Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko. He said MARKUP will also enhance the capacity of the community to take full advantage of other free trade arrangements being concluded like the Tripartite COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area.
He called for high level cooperation amongst the implementing agencies—GIZ, International Trade Centre and UN Industrial Development Organisation—partner states, the private sector, project coordination unit (PCU), the EAC Secretariat and EU to ensure the project success.
EU Delegation in Tanzania Team Leader, Regional Cooperation Jocelin Cornet said the MARKUP was piloted in the EAC-EU cooperation framework because it integrates national interventions complementing regional ones, adding that the principle of subsidiary was key to success in regional integration initiatives.
Mr Cornet said MARKUP was the first EU regional programme supporting the EAC Secretariat in developing key regional value chains and particularly, a number of agro-industrial and horticultural products with high economic growth potential.
“We believe that sustainable cooperation programme requires clear ownership by our partners and last year’s decision to fully integrate the MARKUP in the EAC decisional processes through the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) was to us a clear sign of ownership, which in itself deserves praise,” said Mr Cornet.
He cautioned that MARKUP was a complex project which will require extra efforts in coordination in addition to wide consultations both at the national and regional levels. Critical in the programme will be the work of PCU, which he commended for its great efforts in the initial phase.
“Regional integration is not usually well understood by our citizens and therefore the need to put in place a well-coordinated and effective communication and visibility plan for MARKUP activities as this will ensure appropriate knowledge-sharing and buy-in from the many stakeholders,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction with the work carried out so far by the main implementing partners in the EAC WINDOW, namely GIZ and International Trade Centre (ITC), and assured them and the Partner States WINDOW implementers (including UNIDO and the EAC Partner States) of EU’s trust and support and requested for quality results/outputs.
GIZ’s Senior Trade Advisor Bernd Schmidt said GIZ considers MARKUP as an important complement to the strong, positive and continued cooperation with the EAC Secretariat.
“MARKUP fits very well with the BMZ’s Marshall Plan with Africa which inter alia underlines that Africa must be more than the continent of raw materials. The economic policy which powers the German Marshall Plan focuses on diversification, the establishment of value chains targeted support for agriculture and SMEs and dismantling trade barriers,” said Schmidt.
He disclosed that GIZ will, among other things, coordinate activities aimed at improving the harmonisation of standards and sanitary and phytosanitary measures in addition to closing implementation gaps.