It hasn’t been all doom and gloom during the COVID-19 pandemic in East Africa, and while businesses across the region have certainly been hit hard, there have been lessons learned and the recognition of the importance of regional collaboration and strong recovery plans. That’s the takeaway from Peter Mathuki, Executive Director of the East African Business Council (EABC) and incoming Secretary General of the East African Community, who has been working tirelessly on behalf of EABC members to negotiate with EAC Partner State governments ways to survive this dramatic downturn, and coordinate efforts to create a stronger and more resilient business sector in the future.
Peter Mathuki stresses, “Our focus has been trying to work out a recovery strategy across multiple sectors across the Partner States. For a recovery to be successful we need to have strong relationships with governments and different national ministries – something which this crisis has certainly enhanced, and which we are sure will continue when we come out the other side of this pandemic.”
The EU-EAC Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) works closely with the EABC, with the goal of finding the best solutions for regional businesses to grow and benefit from international markets and harmonised regional trade and quality standards and policies. MARKUP aims to increase exports of agribusiness and horticultural products and promote regional integration and access to the European market.
As businesses have been brought to a standstill, or their activities largely curtailed – tourism, airlines, manufacturing, logistics and transport, financial services, and many more – pushing for stimulus packages from regional governments to help cover the gap or keep businesses afloat until markets reopen has been a mixed effort, but one which has opened the doors to valuable conversations with Ministers and an open dialogue about the needs of businesses in the future.
One of the EABC’s primary goals during this time has been to encourage EAC Partner States to work together and harmonise their responses to the economic downturn. “EAC Partner States have had hugely different responses, as evidenced by things like border closures and the movement of goods and trade. At borders and ports, trucks and containers being unable to go through has badly impacted supply chains, and we know of many businesses which will simply not survive, with all the knock-on effects that has. We’ve been working at border points to assist members and try to get things moving, with some success.”
“Whether National Response Meetings, or sectoral meetings across the region, as well of course as direct lines to Ministers and Ministries, our suggestions and strategies are being well met and listened to, and we hope will lead to some direct action and coordinated approaches which will help bolster business soon, and create an environment of regional cooperation.”
Photo: ©EAC-GIZ/Michael Goima