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Trade adviser helps to create a competitive services market in East Africa

Trade adviser helps to create a competitive services market in East Africa

Commonwealth in Action: Hub and Spokes II - Donor collaboration to promote trade in services.

The Hub and Spokes II Programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. It is a joint programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Dorica Suvye Phiri is a Regional Trade Adviser deployed to the East African Community Secretariat under the Hubs and Spokes II Programme. Her work is helping to shape the development of a customs union and common market for East Africa. 

Read her blog below:

The East African Community (EAC) is a regional economic community comprising of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. These are all low-income countries with a per capita income of US$1,025 or less, except for Kenya which is classified as a lower-middle income country.

Together, the EAC partner states have a combined population of 145.5 million with a combined GDP of US$145.5 billion (2015), and are currently pursuing market-oriented economic policies.

The EAC aims at closer and deeper integration among the partner states and in the economic sphere, focussing on trade and investment, monetary and fiscal policy, and labour and capital markets.

Over the past decade integration efforts have focused on a customs union, the establishment of a common market and a protocol to establish a monetary union which is currently being operationalised. There are also ongoing consultations on a political federation.

I was recruited through the Hubs and Spokes II programme and placed as trade adviser with the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, in July 2012. This position has allowed me to play a key role in coordinating the implementation of an EAC Customs Union and Common Market, helping to harmonise trade policy.

The EAC partner states are consolidating their external trade policy by undertaking trade negotiations as a bloc with key partners such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the context of a Tripartite Free Trade Area, as well as with the European Union (EU) on the Economic Partnership Agreement and the United States (U.S.) on the Trade and Investment Partnership.

Toward this effort, I have been supporting the bilateral and regional negotiations the EAC is party to, including an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, the US Trade and Investment Partnership, and a Tripartite Free Trade Area between other regional African organisations of COMESA and SADC.

Generally, the EAC economies are not diversified. The services sector accounts for the largest share of GDP and has been growing strongly, particularly through increases in tourism, transport, and telecommunications. With the exception of Burundi, the services sector accounts for over 40 percent of EAC partner states' economies.

The structural transformation of economies from agriculture into industry and services is an important pathway for the upgrading of jobs and livelihoods in the region. Nevertheless, agriculture still provides a livelihood for about 80% of the total EAC population. The informal sector also plays an important role in providing jobs for over 75% of the population in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, and accounting for approximately 20% of their GDP.

It has been extremely rewarding to help coordinate the implementation of liberalisation of trade in services under the EAC Common Market Protocol. I have closely worked with German aid agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which has provided financial and technical support in convening meetings and facilitating international experts on trade in services who have assisted in providing technical backstopping in these meetings.

As a result of this partnership, the EAC has resolved long outstanding legal issues on linking the free movement of services and free movement of workers – both annexes under the Common Market Protocol. With continued collaboration, work is on-going on the amendment of the protocol and partner states’ schedules of commitments. The latter will bring clarity on implementation on EAC partner states’ commitments on trade in services.

The overall objective, which we are on the way to achieving, is to create a vibrant and competitive services market for the benefit of the EAC people.

The Hub and Spokes II programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.  It is a joint programme of the European Union (lead donor), ACP Group Secretariat, Commonwealth Secretariat and Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

For more information on the Hub and Spokes II programme, please email the team