Monday, 30th January 2023 Kigali, Rwanda: Mr. John Bosco Kalisa, CEO of EABC urged the Governments of EAC Partner States to fast-track the review of the East African Community (EAC) Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) charter to empower women & youth entrepreneurs.
In his remarks during the Regional Workshop for SMEs, Women, and Youth Entrepreneurs organized by EABC in partnership with GIZ- Support to East African Market-Driven and People-Centred Integration Programme II, Mr. Kalisa, called for national SMEs strategies to be aligned and Governments to offer special incentives to accelerate SME development and empowerment to trade.
Mr. Dennis Karera said, “Youth, Women and Entrepreneurs should strive to be bankable by enhancing integrity, reliability and hard work.”
He said, SMEs should be empowered to trade under African Continental Free Trade Area Agreements (AfCFTA).
Mr. Karera said appreciated GIZ for partnering with EABC to amplify the SME agenda at the EAC level and raise awareness of the private sector on AfCFTA Agreements.
He said that East Africans should enhance market intelligence and data on opportunities in other African countries, and enhance the aggregation of products to boost sustainability & reliability of supply.
On his part, Mr. Lamech Wesonga, Economic Policy Advisor on AfCFTA to the EAC said, EAC is the most proactive regional economic community in Africa having ratified and submitted tariff offers on AfCFTA. He reiterated GIZ’s commitment to supporting the EAC Governments and the private sector to champion the EAC integration agenda and AfCFTA.
Hon. Pamela Maassay, Former MP of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) said, difficulties in accessing finance, language barriers and un-harmonized business policies continue to hinder SMEs’ growth and expansion in the region.
She appealed to EABC to champion advocacy on the alignment of national policies and elimination of non-tariff barriers to improve the business environment.
Mrs. Mary Ngechu, EABC SME Goodwill Ambassador said the EAC bloc needs an SME think-tank to foster the development of the sector and unlock challenges of quality, market access and trade requirements that youth, women & entrepreneurs face.
Mr. John Walugembe, Executive Director, of the Federation of SMEs Uganda, Mrs. Mary Ngechu – EABC SMEs Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Zahoro Muhaji – Executive director of Tanzania Startup Association and Mr. Hendry Mwenda, Director General Micro and Small Enterprises Authority of Kenya took part in the panel discussion on SMEs’ challenges, solutions & opportunities, moderated by Madame Amelie Ninganza, EABC Board Director recommended for the development of viable alternatives to finance, public procurement opportunities, support product diversification and enhance cooperatives and external market linkages for SMEs.
In his presentation on Kenya SMEs Index, Mr. Victor Ogola, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) recommended a dedicated department within Revenue Authority dealing with specific Micro Small Enterprises tax regimes & compliance and designated SME locations/ zones, markets, worksites.
Regional Workshop for SMEs, Women and Youth Entrepreneurs convened over 30 experts from business membership organizations and SMEs from all East African countries.