Regional manufacturers have called on East African Community (EAC) governments to put in place strong policies that will discourage counterfeiting and illicit trade in the region.
Rwanda’s New Times quoted the Chairman of the East African Business Council, Denis saying the vices were inhibiting the sector’s growth.
Karera who made this call in an interview after the first East African Manufacturing Business Summit last week in Kampala, Uganda also asked regional governments to promote use of products made within the EAC bloc.
“The idea is to encourage our people to consume products manufactured in the region to support industries so that they are able to grow to create more jobs for East Africans and boost revenue collections,”
The summit held under the theme, “Unleashing the Manufacturing Potential of East Africa” sought to address existing gaps in the policy and business environment by bringing together key manufacturers, supply industries, wholesalers and retailers, as well as policy-makers from the East African region and beyond.
Rwanda was represented by 20 delegates from the agro-processing, steel manufacturing, textiles, among others, at a conference that attracted 500 participants.
Karera noted that many people in the region still preferred imported products, saying this affects industrial growth. “We need to sensitise our people so that they understand that goods made in the EAC bloc are also of quality like those imported from Europe or China,” said.
Robert Bayigamba, the Chairman of the Rwanda Association of Manufacturers, challenged producers to be more innovative and improve product quality if they are to stay competitive.
“As we lobby governments, we must also ensure that our products are of quality,” he said.
Vimal Shah, the Managing Director of Bidco Kenya, said more needs to be done to eliminate non-tariff barriers affecting cross-border trade in the region.
He also called on policy-makers to fast-track the harmonisation of EAC tax regimes, saying the challenge of double taxation was hurting businesses.
Speaking at the summit earlier, Dr Richard Sezibera, the East African Community Secretary General, called for removal of cross-border tariffs, arguing they were hurting the regional manufacturing sector.
He noted that the EAC secretariat was committed toward ratifying the double taxation treaty.
“Our goods are taxed twice, yet we are members of the East African Community. Goods are taxed before and after crossing to another country. This does not reflect the essence of the Community,” Sezibera told media in Kampala.
Rwandan exports to the EAC bloc represented 23 per cent of total exports in the first half of 2015 compared 29.1 per cent in the same period last year.
The value of Rwandan exports to EAC also decreased by 26.8 per cent to $62.57 million, down from $85.51 million in 2014, according to central bank statistics.