• The aim of EAC is to gradually establish among themselves a Customs Union, a Common Market, a Monetary Union, and ultimately a Political Federation of the East African States.
  • Business Insider SSA spoke to Mr. Edwin N. Rutageruka, the director General of Tanzania Trade development Authority (TanTrade) about the state of EAC.

With a population of over 150 million citizens sourced from six countries, a land area of 1.82 million square kilometres and a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$ 146 billion (EAC Statistics for 2016), East Africa Community (EAC) is without a doubt one of the world’s most attractive trade destination.

Founded in 1967, dissolved in 1977, and revived in 1999, East Africa Community (EAC) made up by Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia has weathered many storms and enjoyed many milestones to stand up tall today.

The aim of EAC is to gradually establish among themselves a Customs Union, a Common Market, a Monetary Union, and ultimately a Political Federation of the East African States.

However, over the years, like most regional trade bodies in the continent, the body has remained dormant with member states reading from different scripts and pulling in different directions effectively grounding the ‘East Africa giant.’

Business Insider SSA spoke to Mr. Edwin N. Rutageruka, the director General of Tanzania Trade development Authority (TanTrade) during the during the first Tanzania trade exhibition held in Kenya dubbed Tanzania Week in Kenya about  the state of EAC.

“Trade has been declining between Kenya and Tanzania because of competition but we are quite aware of that and even yesterday we discussed about it. We have china which has in recent years entered the East African market in a big way and is very competitive but we also don’t have the culture of promoting inter-regional trade here in East Africa so we need to build the culture of Uzalenda and start buying and loving East African products”

Here is what EAC needs to do to achieve economic prosperity according to Mr. Rutageruka.

#1. Make East Africa goods visible

Mr. Rutageruka believes East Africa member countries need to put more efforts in marketing their goods and services in order to stand a chance against China and the west.

“we also need to intensify export promotion efforts, we need to participate in exhibitions, trade fares organized across East Africa, people need to see our East African products because when they don’t see them in the supermarkets they will definitely buy Chinese, American, Indian products, they need to see and taste them, only after doing so can they buy our goods.”

#2. Produce quality goods through competition

Ultimately, consumers will not buy substandard goods in the name of being patriotic, the same applies to the rest of the continent and world when trading with EAC.

“We also need to be competitive in terms of quality and price when producing and marketing our goods and services and I believe our products can not only compete in the East African market but also in the whole continent and the world.”

#3. Smart cooperation rather blind competition is the way to go

East Africa Community member countries by virtue of being located on the same geographical area enjoy similar weather and even culture and as result produce similar goods.

This factor has for years threatened and continues to threaten EAC unity as member states compete with each other to make a sale.

Mr. Rutageruka advice that complimentary trade is what will unify EAC and the way to go.

“During Tanzania week in Kenya we had all trade organizations in East Africa and we agreed that going forward we will see  which member country  has a competitive edge in a certain product or serve and then let the rest of EAC members compliment that, of course you could produce that product but if I have a competitive edge in the food industry for example then let me produce and sell in the East Africa market, if you have the competitive edge for example Rwanda in ICT let us all support Rwanda and give them opportunities to even expand to our local markets, if Kenya is having the competitive advantage in the machinery and equipment let Kenya specialize on that and bring it to Tanzania.  We need to open up because without opening up our trade will go to other countries, they will come here and exploit our division and sell their products while our inter-regional trade decline from year to year.”