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AfDB launches capacity building initiative to enhance trade in East Africa

ARUSHA, October 30, 2023 – The African Development Bank [AfDB] is partnering with the East African Community [EAC] Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTD] to launch a capacity development project to enhance trade in East Africa.

The US$ 1.56 million EAC Trade Portal Enhancement Project will support digitised trade solutions to reduce trade barriers and enable the EAC to meet its obligations under the World Trade Organisation [WTO] Trade Facilitation Agreement. It will address the lack of capacity in trade information and ICT systems, insufficient market information, poor internet connectivity, and transparency for trade and investment.

The two-year multi-country trade portal enhancement project, funded by the Multilateral Cooperation Center for Development Finance [MCDF], was launched during the EAC Donor Round Table held in Arusha, Tanzania on 6 October 2023.

Senior Trade Facilitation Officer at AfDB, Rachael Nsubuga explained that the bank’s trade facilitation programs are designed to reduce barriers to international trade and facilitate both intra-African and external trade.

“This project will complement other programmes of the African Development Bank in the region by providing digitalized trade solutions and data to support investment climate and customs modernisation work,” Nsubuga said.

The project falls under the African Development Bank’s strategic priority of integrating Africa and its Regional Integration Strategic Paper [RISP 2023-2027] priorities.

It will leverage partnerships to enhance and integrate existing digital trade information facilitation and customs modernisation systems to share intra-regional and extra-regional market information.

According to officials, this will further contribute to the EAC single window goal as well as increased trade with key trading partners like the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -plus markets. The EAC Trade Portal Enhancement Project is a pilot project that can be a model for the rest of the world.

The Secretary General of the East African Community Secretariat, Dr. Peter Mathuki, said: “The EAC is committed to trade transparency and partnerships in developing regional trade. Enabling infrastructure coupled with capacity building can further bolster the region’s trade ecosystem for sustained socio-economic gains.”

The enhanced regional portal will be user-friendly and interactive with measurable online connectivity indicators linked to artificial intelligence tools that feed into other systems such as customs, and EAC’s non-tariff barriers monitoring system. It will be linked with national trade portals to provide real-time assistance on non-tariff barriers and the calculation of trade procedure costs.

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