East African Community (EAC) regional experts in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, and leather sectors convened in Nairobi, Kenya, to review the progress achieved within their respective industries and to formulate recommendations aimed at enhancing growth and scaling up regional trade.
The two-day workshop dubbed ‘Regional Focal Persons Workshop to Monitor the Implementation of the EAC Fruits&Vegetables; Leather&Leather Products; and Pharmaceutical Sectors Strategies and Action Plans’ comprised of experts from EAC Partner States, the EAC Secretariat, East African Business Council and representatives from GIZ/GFA.
The workshop served as a platform for critical discussions and progress reporting, aiming to identify quick wins and streamline collaborative efforts across the region.
In the fruits and vegetables sector, the experts emphasised the importance of harmonizing agricultural and food safety standards within the region. They highlighted the need to support the development and adoption of a code of conduct for farmers and exporters, aiming to strengthen self-monitoring frameworks. Additionally, the experts stressed the significance of prioritising the development and improvement of quality planting seeds and seedlings.
They also advocated for enhanced data collection mechanisms, utilising digital technology. Recommendations included fast-tracking initiatives using digital and remote sensing for streamlined data collection and advocating for the inclusion of nuts in reports.
On the pharmaceuticals front, the experts noted significant ongoing projects, singling out the developments in Kenya where two Biovax vaccine manufacturing plans are being set up while in Rwanda, with a BioNTech Vaccines manufacturing plant is set to go to production by end of 2024.
They underscored the urgent need for Partner States to expedite and streamline approval processes for pharmaceutical waste disposal, citing the potential risks associated with prolonged procedures. The meeting emphasised the importance of developing harmonised regulations and guidelines for pharmaceutical waste management across the EAC region, aiming to ensure consistent and effective waste management practices, thereby enhancing environmental sustainability and public safety.
On the leather sector, the experts highlighted the need for investment and adoption of modern processing technologies to address existing challenges. These challenges include the high cost of production and the production of low-quality leather products.
Notable issues identified included low volumes of locally produced leather products, limited capacity of tanneries, and insufficient technology and manpower. The experts also pointed out the unfavorable competition faced by the leather market from cheap imported products and the weak linkages between Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and formal retail outlets.
Recommendations included the development of minimum acceptable standards for hides and skins, integration of quality leather requirements into animal husbandry practices, and implementation of subsidized exchange programs to address limited access to experts in the leather processing section.
Additionally, the experts highlighted the necessity of developing user-friendly tools and self-assessment toolkits to enhance the capacity of MSMEs to meet international requirements. The importance of fostering public-private partnerships to pool financial resources and support infrastructure development was also stressed.
Dr. Julius Otim, who spoke on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki, emphasised the progress made in implementing sectoral strategies noting that they are in alignment with Council Directives.
On her part, Ms. Purity Kamau, acting on behalf of Dr. Juma Mukhwana, the Principal Secretary for Industry in the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry, Kenya, underscored the significance of regional collaboration. Ms. Kamau highlighted the EAC Industrialization Strategy (2012-2032) as a pivotal framework guiding regional development efforts, particularly through strategic value chain interventions.
Dr. Thomas Walter, representing GIZ and GFA, reiterated the organizations’ commitment to supporting sectoral development initiatives in addition to the importance of effective policy measures in enhancing regional trade and economic growth.
The report of the workshop are set to be presented to the Sectoral Committee on Industrialization and the Sectoral Council of Trade, Industry, Finance, and Investment (SCTIFI) in May 2024 for further consideration.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of East African Community.