ARUSHA – The East African Community [EAC] is setting up a Diaspora desk that will focus on facilitating East Africans living in the diaspora to invest and trade in the region.
EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki says they are also currently developing a Diaspora Engagement Strategy, providing a framework for interacting with the diaspora community.
The Secretary General was speaking during the East Africa 17th Annual Trade and Investment Conference, organised by the East Africa Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas – USA. The meeting saw hundreds of East Africans residing across the USA and East African-focused investors, converge to explore areas of investment and deliberate on solutions to overcome investment and trade challenges.
The diaspora community highlighted a lack of trust in local financial institutions as one of the challenges deterring investment in East Africa. Mathuki responded by urging them to establish financial institutions such as an EAC diaspora bank, located in one EAC’s Partner States , where they can access credit and transact business.
Dr. Mathuki shared that the diaspora community will also be incorporated in EAC signature events, such as Pre-Summit retreats, offering them an opportunity to engage with EAC Heads of State, Ministers and the regional business community.
The Secretary General urged the diaspora community to take advantage of EAC’s online investment guide portal (https://www.eac.int/investment-guide), which highlights investment procedures, incentives and opportunities; and increases transparency on access to relevant information required by investors.
“The EAC Trade Information Portal available on our website also provides a step-by-step guide on licenses, pre-clearance permits and clearance formalities for the most traded goods within, to, and from the East African Community,” he added.
Mathuki noted that the diaspora community has a huge role to play, “The EAC recognises the role of diaspora remittance, which continue to outpace Foreign Direct Investment [FDIs] to become the largest source of external financing.”
The inflow of funds from the diaspora has been on an upward trajectory in recent years. For instance; in 2021, the Kenyan diaspora remittance stood at US$ 3.718 billion, while remittances from Uganda stood at US$ 599.3 million. The inflow of funds from the Tanzania diaspora stood at US$ 569.5mln while Rwanda diaspora remitted US$ 246mln.
“The inflow of funds from the diaspora contributed largely to the EAC’s Foreign Direct Investment [FDI] which stood at US$ 8.2bln- a 35 percent growth; and helped the region’s economy withstand the devastating economic impact of Covid-19 and the trickle-down effect of the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” Mathuki added.
He noted that the time taken to register a business had reduced significantly and the establishment of One Stop Centres for business registration had further eased the process.
He highlighted investment opportunities in the region such as agribusiness, which is the backbone of the EAC economy, employing more than 80 percent of its labor force.
“The investment opportunities include; large-scale commercial farming, agro-processing, value addition in agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry products,” he shared.
He further explored investment opportunities in the energy, mining, oil and gas industry, and manufacturing sectors.
“EAC has developed a master plan for the development of infrastructure, creating linkages for Intra EAC road and railway networks as well in Airports and Port projects. It is thus opportune to tap into the Public-Private Partnerships to invest into this infrastructure in the region,” Mathuki added.
The opportunities in advisory and facilitatory areas to access finances and technology, ICT, health, particularly in Physical and Mental Health were also highlighted as potential areas of investment.
In her remarks, the East Africa Chamber of Commerce [EACC] Chair, Elsa Juuko McDowell noted that the diaspora community is ready to invest in the region and keen on collaborating with the EAC governments.
“We are committed to continuing collaborating in supporting the USA – East Africa trade relations, promoting trade missions and cooperation, and marketing East Africa as a trade and investment destination,” she added.
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