From 5 to 15 December 2023, the 23rd Edition of the EAC Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Trade Fair, dubbed the “Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi” Exhibition, took place at the Cercle Hippique Grounds in Bujumbura, Burundi, under the theme “Connecting East African MSMEs to Enhance Intra-EAC Trade.” The trade fair, supported by the EAC-GIZ “Support to the EAC Integration Process" SEAMPEC II programme, attracted more than 1,000 artisans from seven EAC Partner States.
The main objective of the Trade Fair was to contribute towards the realisation of the region’s development goals and aspirations by lending support to this budding sector of the economy, which needs public patronage and government support to make it sustainable.
The EAC MSMEs Trade Fair featured a daily symposium aimed at enhancing awareness of and the capacity of MSMEs. The symposia addressed matters such as opportunities for MSMEs in the region and under the AfCFTA, the importance of trade associations in Partner States, tackling Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and requirements for formalising business in the EAC. Other topics were acquiring the Standards Mark in the EAC, the benefits of value addition and adaptation to appropriate technology for MSMEs in the region, and environment and food security in the EAC.
The Vice President, His Excellency Prosper Bazombanza of the Republic of Burundi, officiated the opening ceremony and noted that the trade fair plays a critical role in contributing to socio-economic development, job creation, and income generation throughout the region. He disclosed that the Jua Kali trade fair coincides with the launch of Burundi's National Implementation Strategy of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), providing significant opportunities for African businesses.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms. Annette Ssemuwemba, emphasised the sector's role in the region's economic development, contribution to poverty reduction, women's empowerment, and overall gross domestic product growth. ” The sector accounts for 65% of all the total persons engaged in employment and more than 15% of the GDP of the economy of the region,” she noted.
Further, she recognised the support EAC-GIZ provides in promoting the social, economic, cultural, and political transformation of the region, which extends to supporting the integration of MSMEs into regional and continental markets, including their participation in trade fairs, to increase their business prospects and effectively contribute to the EAC's economic development.
The MSMEs attending the fair noted the need to develop Swahili as the trading language of the region and called upon the Partner States to fast-track the implementation of a single currency, noting that a single currency would significantly enhance intra-regional trade owing to the elimination of currency conversion. The delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appealed to the Partner States that have yet to waive visa requirements for DRC citizens to do so to better facilitate the integration of DRC into the Community.
At the closing ceremony, Ms Marie Chantel, Nijimbere, Minister of Trade, the Republic of Burundi, urged the Partner States and development partners to facilitate the transformation of MSMEs in the region by addressing the challenges faced by MSMEs, such as low productivity, poor competitiveness due to the use of inadequate technology and equipment, high costs of utilities, unfavourable regulatory requirements, limited access to finance and markets, and weak managerial and entrepreneurial capacities.
Find highlights of the 23rd Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi Exhibition here.
Find more information on SEAMPEC II here.