Agribusinesses in East African Community (EAC) countries are set to benefit from greater business opportunities in both East African and European markets thanks to a new initiative funded by the European Union.
Unveiled last week in Arusha, Tanzania, the programme dubbed Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) is set to provide support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region to improve access to EU markets and increase inter-regional trade.
According to a statement from the secretariat, MARKUP sets out to support East African SMEs specialized in a variety of sectors, including avocado, cocoa, coffee, horticulture, spices and tea. Interventions will focus on the identification and elimination of barriers to trade; improving competitiveness; strengthening of value addition for selected priority sectors; ensuring compliance with international regulations; provide access to trade finance ventures; and supporting the identification of opportunities for trade and foreign direct investments.
The €35 million MARKUP initiative is funded by the EU as part of the 11th European Development Fund. The programme will be implemented over a four-year period under overall supervision from the EAC Secretariat. Two of the most important technical implementation partners are the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
“This programme supports EAC efforts to improve the regional trade enabling environment as well as enterprise export competitiveness for a number of products with high growth potential, implying existing supply gaps particularly in Europe, a sufficiently high degree of readiness and sector organisation in order to meet strict quality and quantity requirements and the possibility to tap into higher – than now – price segments.” Said Mr Jose Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Tanzania.
Speaking at the function, EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko said that the main objective of MARKUP is to help the EAC in unlocking challenges in accessing the European Union markets in addition to enhancing intra-EAC trade.
“In addition, MARKUP will also enhance the capacity of the EAC to participate and take full advantage of the other free trade arrangements that are being concluded like the Tripartite COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area,” said Amb. Mfumukeko.
The Secretary General noted that the major challenge that had inhibited EAC exports from accessing the EU and other international markets was the failure by EAC products to meet the high product standards in these markets.
“There are priority commodities that have been selected by the EAC Partner States which include cocoa, coffee, tea, and horticulture products that have a lot of potential for mass production in all the EAC Partner States,” said Amb. Mfumukeko.
Taking advantage of a growing global demand for avocado, cocoa, coffee, spices, tea and horticulture products, selected SMEs will be trained to adapt their agribusinesses to better take advantage of opportunities in regional and global value chains.
In the same breath the ITC Executive Director Arancha González said that MARKUP aligns very closely with the regional integration priorities of the East African Community. It aims to build the competitiveness of MSMEs across the region, and support them to increase production, take advantage of market-access opportunities and create more value addition. There is a growing demand in the EU for the products produced in the EAC. MARKUP will capitalize on this and help create sustainable market linkages between Europe and the EAC, and further contribute to job creation and inclusive development in the region.