SMEs digest: Why East Africa states need to invest in industrial parks

East African Community Secretary General Peter Mathuki speaks during a past event. He has challenged the bloc’s member states to invest in industrial parks in a bid to boost economic growth in the region. He argued that the states were not competitors and should work together instead of competing. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The move would not only improve the competitiveness of the bloc in international trade but raise the contribution of manufacturing

Arusha. The East African Community (EAC) partner states have been implored to invest in industrial parks.

The move would not only improve the competitiveness of the bloc in international trade but raise the contribution of manufacturing to the economies.

The appeal was made in Dar es Salaam yesterday earlier this week by EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki when he opened the EA Trade and Industrialization Week 2021.

Dr Mathuki urged the partner states’ governments to enhance industrial productivity and strengthen institutional frameworks and policies to accelerate economic growth in the region.

“Currently, manufacturing contributes to gross domestic product (GDP) a meagre 8.9 percent,” he said as he graced the event at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC).

He added in a dispatch to The Citizen: “To achieve the set target of 25 percent in 2032, there is a need for diversification of the manufacturing base and raising local value-added content resource-based exports”.

The EAC boss called for promotion of rural industrialization through an agriculture-led industrialization strategy and strengthening of research, technology.

These would not only increase the innovation capabilities of all EAC partner states but foster structural transformation of the manufacturing sector and industrial upgrading.

As a strategy towards economic recovery amid Covid-19 in the region, Dr Mathuki called upon the regional governments to offer long-term stimulus packages for private sector development and sector-specific incentives for the established regional value chains such as cotton, textile and apparel, leather livestock and Agro-processing.

“Instead of competing, EAC partner states need to complement each other. Harnessing our comparative advantage by collectively improving infrastructure connectivity will fast-track regional development,” he pointed out.

For his part, Mr David Osiany, the Kenyan Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, called for consistent public-private sector dialogues and collaboration to develop policies corresponding with the current business environment.

Tanzania’s Industry and Trade minister Kitila Mkumbo called for joint investment by EAC governments and the private sector in skills development.

“Only 50 percent of our workforce are employable in the current job market. The public-private sector should come up with a strategy on skills development to fill this gap,” said Prof Mkumbo.

The East African Trade & industrialization week which officially commenced today will run up to September 3, 2021.

The conference brings together business operators, policy makers, civil society leaders, international and United Nations organization leaders, academia from all avenues to address challenges and propose solutions to the changing role of business in the region and the African continent.