The East Africa Business Council (EABC) Chief Executive Officer John Bosco Kalisa, has called for the finalization of regulations on Mutual Recognition of Academic and Professional Qualifications and a roadmap for the removal of restrictions to boost trade in services in the EAC bloc.

Under the Common Market Protocol, EAC Partner States made commitments to liberalise seven priority service sectors, as follows: Business, Communications, Distribution, Education, Financial, Tourism and Travel and Transport.

EABC CEO John Bosco Kalisa displays the EABC Barometer on Trade in Services in the EAC during the virtual launch held in Arusha. Photo / Courtesy

Speaking at the Virtual Launch of the EABC Barometer on Trade in Services in the EAC, Kalisa elaborated that legally all restrictions in the liberalised seven service sector that were maintained by EAC Partner States in their schedule of commitment should have been removed by December 2015.

The EABC Barometer shows professional services of Legal, Accounting & Auditing Engineering have the highest number of restrictions at 35.

Kalisa said “The EABC Barometer shows a very positive trend, as EAC Partner States have committed to liberalise 92 new sub-sectors under the revised schedule of progressive commitment.” This lays the foundation to build an integrated EAC services market and will result into commercially meaning-full trade of services in the EAC bloc once implementation commences, Mr. Kalisa explained

The new sub-sectors added are in key sectors like business services (37); transport services (36) and financial sector (10), which are all critical as key sectors in their own right and as intermediate inputs in the manufacture of goods and production of other services.

Kalisa also urged all EAC Partner States to adopt the One Network Area on telecommunication as roaming costs are very high.

In his opening remarks, Alhaj Richard Kibowa, EAC Director of Trade said,” Trade in Services are a critical component of the EAC Common Market”

Alhaj Kibowa said EAC Secretariat is committed to mainstreaming the recommendations of the EABC Barometer on Trade in Services into EAC policy decision-making to boost the performance of the services sector in the region.

The Virtual Launch of the EABC Barometer on Trade in Services was attended by over 85 business leaders and professional service providers from the EAC region and beyond.

The Barometer on Trade in Services in the EAC was undertaken by the East African Business Council with support from GIZ- support East African Market Driven and People-Centered Integration (SEAMPEC) Project to gauge the performance of the Service sector in the EAC

The EABC Barometer on Trade in Services shows EAC region exported services worth USD 12.9billion against USD. 933.6M worth of imports globally (2019). In 2020, due to the COVID impacts dropped by 41% to USD 762.2M in 2020, leading the region to become a net importer, with imports worth USD 842.2M.

In his closing remarks, Kalisa urged the EAC Secretariat to fast- track finalization of the EAC Common Market, develop a regional time-bound framework and Agree on a timetable for the negotiation of the 5 service sectors not covered under the Common Market Protocol, in order to broaden service integration.

The EABC Barometer also recommends EAC Partner States undertake reforms to align their domestic laws to their commitments under the Common Market Protocol and revised schedule of commitments for progressive liberalization of trade in services.

By Fred Odanga Azelwa.