The East African Community (EAC) will partner with the East African Development Bank to extend loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
“Regional integration is not simply discussions and talks.
“It is about putting in place building blocks for a successful integration.
“We have to diversify our offerings to the world in terms of trade beyond the traditional products we have in agriculture and other sectors,” said Dr. Richard Sezibera, the EAC secretary general.
He was speaking during a courtesy call to the East African Development Bank on Wednesday.
Sezibera observed that there was inadequate funding in the agriculture and tourism sectors, the region’s critical areas as engines of growth.
“We can only achieve this if we are united because it is easier to diversify the offering if we are a big entity than if we are a small entity.
“It is why EAC is developing its food security and climate change strategy,” he said.
Sezibera noted that extending services and loans to SMEs would boost agricultural development and output in the region.
This, he explained, would lead to value-addition and the creation of more employment.
Sezibera lauded the regional bank’s role in financing long-term projects, which he disclosed had improved intra-regional trade.
Agriculture is one of the East African region’s most important sectors, with about 80% of the population of the EAC partner states living in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihood.
The sector accounts for about 44% of the GDP in Burundi and Tanzania, 30% in Uganda, 24% in Kenya and 38% in Rwanda according to the 2006 figures.
However, agriculture’s contribution to these economies continues to decline.