East African Community (EAC) regional experts in the agriculture, pharmaceutical and leather sectors met in Nairobi, Kenya, to review progress in their respective industries and formulate recommendations aimed at strengthening growth and intensifying regional trade.
The two-day workshop called ‘Regional workshop of focal persons to monitor the implementation of the CAE Fruits and Vegetables program; Leather and leather products; and strategies and action plans for the pharmaceutical sectors composed of experts from EAC Partner States, the EAC Secretariat, the East African Business Council and representatives of GIZ/GFA.
The workshop served as a platform for critical discussions and progress reports, aimed at identifying quick wins and streamlining collaborative efforts in the region.
In the fruit and vegetable sector, experts highlighted 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, aimed at strengthening self-control frameworks. Furthermore, experts stressed the importance of prioritizing the development and improvement of the quality of seeds and seedlings.
They also called for improved data collection mechanisms, using digital technology. Recommendations included accelerated initiatives using digital and remote sensing to streamline data collection and advocating for the inclusion of nuts in reporting.
On the pharmaceutical front, experts noted significant ongoing projects, particularly developments in Kenya where two Biovax vaccine manufacturing plans are being set up, while in Rwanda, a vaccine manufacturing plant BioNTech is expected to enter production by the end of 2024.
They highlighted the urgent need for partner states to accelerate and streamline approval processes for the disposal of pharmaceutical waste, citing potential risks associated with prolonged procedures. The meeting highlighted the importance of developing harmonized regulations and guidelines for pharmaceutical waste management in the EAC region, aimed at ensuring consistent and effective waste management practices, thereby improving environmental sustainability and public security.
Regarding the leather sector, experts highlighted the need to invest and adopt modern processing technologies to address existing challenges. These challenges include high production cost and production of poor quality leather products.
Notable issues identified included low volumes of locally produced leather products, limited tannery capacity, and insufficient technology and labor. Experts also highlighted the unfavorable competition faced by the leather market from cheap imported products and weak linkages between micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and formal retail outlets.
Recommendations included developing minimum acceptable standards for hides and skins, integrating leather quality requirements into breeding practices, and implementing subsidized exchange programs to address limited access to experts in the leather processing sector.
Furthermore, the experts highlighted the need to develop user-friendly tools and self-assessment toolkits to strengthen the capacity of MSMEs to meet international requirements. The importance of promoting public-private partnerships to pool financial resources and support infrastructure development was also highlighted.
Dr. Julius Otim, who spoke on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Hon. (Dr) Peter Mathuki, highlighted the progress made in the implementation of the sectoral strategies, noting that they are in line with the Council’s directives.
For her part, Ms. Purity Kamau, acting on behalf of Dr. Juma Mukhwana, Principal Secretary for Industry at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Kenya, highlighted the importance of regional collaboration. Ms. Kamau highlighted the EAC Industrialization Strategy (2012-2032) as an essential framework guiding regional development efforts, particularly through strategic interventions in value chains.
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 to strengthen regional trade and economic growth.
The workshop report is expected to be presented to the Sector Committee on Industrialization and the Sector Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) in May 2024 for further consideration.
Distributed by APO Group for the East African Community.