Trade, Investment & Sustainability

Trade Closer with Local Varsity Deal
Kenyan students interested in pursuing international trade policy have received a major boost, after the University of Nairobi won a slot from a new WTO teaching and research programme. The initiative, known as WTO Chairs Programme (WCP), is targeted at assisting national academic institutions in providing students with a deeper understanding of trade policy issues, with its architects saying it would help strengthen the participation of the beneficiary countries in international trade, through analytical input, into the formulation and implementation of trade policy.

EAC-EU ‘Agree’ on New Trade Pact
The EAC is due to sign its EPAs with the EU before the end of 2010. All the previously contentious clauses have been agreed on “in principle” at the Brussels meeting between EAC and the EU in February 2010, according to Trade Permanent Secretary, Abdulrazaq Ali.

The clauses on development support and most favoured nation (MFN) status were the most contentious issues, Ali explained. Under development support, East Africa wanted expanded development assistance from the EU, in exchange for trade liberalisation. The EU, on the other hand, stated that it would continue with its current development budget, which was rejected by EAC.

Rwanda Border Open 24hrs
Cross-border trade has been made easy following the commencement of a 24-hour clearing system. The One-Stop-Border-Point (OSBP) system allows cargo, which is arriving or leaving the country, to be jointly inspected and cleared by both the Ugandan and Rwandan authorities with other regulatory organisations operating at the border. It is a simple process, transparent and predictable under the modernisation project. The new service enables information, data exchange and joint verification to significantly reduce on clearance time and congestion at the border point.

Charles Nuwagaba, the Uganda Revenue Authority Assistant Commissioner for field services in customs, said the initiative comes with great improvement in service delivery and follows a standing need to serve clients better. The OSBP is expected to reduce the cost of doing business for the travelling public, transit operators, tourists and the trading community, since the border will be open 24 hours a day. It is anticipated to improve on compliance across the border as well in the process.

Experts Give Banana New Look
Uganda is one of the world’s top banana-growing countries, producing as many as 10 million tonnes of the fruit each year, but the banana market is under-exploited. Its potential to act as a bastion of food-security and creating lucrative openings for ambitious entrepreneurs requires innovation in the way the fruit is produced, marketed and consumed. Currently, African bananas make up only four percent of the bananas sold in the EU, the world’s largest banana importer, and this figure is set to decrease further, as the EU will imminently abandon its reduced import tax for African bananas.

But, bananas for export are not the first priority for Fen Beed, researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Internal markets should be strengthened first, he says, and to do that, a greater synergy between all the players in the banana game is crucial, especially since banana production in Uganda has actually been decreasing over the last few years.