Arusha. Intra-regional exports within the East African Community (EAC) bloc grew by 5.6 per cent in 2018, wile cross-border imports shot up by 13.9 per cent.
Cross-border exports during the year amounted to $3.2 billion in value, up from $2.9 billion in 2017, according to the EAC Trade and Investment Report for 2019.
The marginal growth of exports and imports within EAC is seen as an iota of improvement - given the low level of intra-regional trade ($3.2 billion) in the six-nation bloc.
Until 2018, trade within the region was estimated at only 20 per cent of the total EAC trade with the outside world. The trend is blamed on a host of hurdles, notably non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs).
According to the statistics released by the East African Business Council (EABC), the gross EAC economy expanded by 5.7 per cent in 2018 up from 5.6 per cent in the previous year.
However, foreign direct investments (FDIs) into EAC fell by 15.9 per cent, to $5.7 billion, in 2018 - down from $6.8 billion in 2017.
Total EAC exports decreased by 4.7 per cent, to $14.0 billion, in 2018 from $14.7 billion in 2017 - of which intra-EAC share of total exports stood at 22 per cent. Exports to the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and the European Union (EU) in 2018 amounted to $1.9 billion and $2.5 billion respectively.
On the other hand, total EAC imports grew by 19.2 per cent, to $38.3 billion, in 2018 - up from $32.2 billion in 2017, the report says. Statistics for 2019 were still being compiled.
EABC, an apex body of private sector associations and corporates, said it would engage the trade facilitation agencies in an effort to promote cross border trade.