MEMBERS of the business community in Zanzibar have appealed to the East African Business Council (EABC) to help push for a conducive environment in the region so as to improve trade amid Covid-19 pandemic.
The call was made here yesterday at the ‘EABC-CEO Breakfast Roundtable engagement on EAC Regional Integration’. The meeting was organized by the EABC in collaboration with the Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) under the theme ‘Enhancing a private led integration and emerging opportunities’.
Non-Tariff barriers (NTBs), unnecessary multiple levies within Zanzibar, high costs in air transportation and reluctance to accept or recognize goods bearing ‘Zanzibar Bureau of Standards (ZBS)’ mark in East African market, are some of the issues raised during the roundtable.
The EABC Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr John Bosco Kalisa said there are key issues affecting private sector at the regional level and that there is a need to harmonize domestic taxes in the EAC, such as elimination of NTBs; harmonization of products standards and lowering the cost of telecommunications in the EAC.
Mr Kalisa also spoke about interventions on Covid-19, free movement of workers in the EAC, African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) and the tripartite free trade area. Also he spoke of implementation of EAC commitments by the Republic of South Africa and admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the EAC bloc; EAC trade and investment agreements with third parties and activation of the dispute settlement mechanism as important in making EAC a better place for trade.
He elaborated that high air ticket and freight fares in the EAC increase the cost of doing business, arguing that transport infrastructure development and inter-linkage are important in accessing markets.
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Mr Hamad Hamad- executive director, ZNCC said that it’s chamber and the EABC have been working closely and that the engagement aimed to listen to its members on challenges facing them and find solutions to boost trade and investment in the region.
“We need more collaboration and greater coordination between the private and public sectors to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and cross borders,” he said.
The Director General (DG) of Zanzibar Micro, Small and Medium Industrial Development Agency (SMIDA), Mr Said Ali urged business companies and groups to join Chamber.
An economic expert, Professor Mohamed Hafidh thanked the EABC for organizing the engagement, saying it is one of the workable ways to promote Public Private Partnership (PPP), which remains crucial in the development of trade and business in the region.