The Principal Secretary for the State Department of East African Community Dr. Kevit Dessai has had a working session with the members of Kenya Chamber of Commerce, representatives of Busia business community in the service industry, trade and cottage industries with a view to ensure progress of the opportunities within the county.
Speaking to the press after a meeting with the stakeholders at the KNCCI office, Dr Dessai said Busia is one of the most thriving hubs of trade in the context of Kenya’s economy and the East African community.
‘The gains that Busia has made by increasing trading across borders by almost 40% in the last year is extremely significant and is part of almost 250 billion shillings’ worth of trade,’ he said, adding that there is need for the government to maximize on cross border trade.
He stated that the achievements realized under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta in terms of development within EAC is relevant to the transformation of Busia Chamber of Commerce and business fraternity adding that its uniqueness has been a multiplier effect as far as trade ecosystem and transformation in the entire region.
‘First and foremost, the inclusion of the DRC Congo brings enormous benefits to Busia’s commerce sector which already has had trading relationship for several decades between various opportunities in the hinterland of Kenya,’ he said adding that this means that simplified trade regime and structures of the common union trade market will triple from its current existing capacity.
The PS added that the total of 3 million traders will translate into 300 million consumers making Kenya the fourth largest in the world after China, India and the United States.
“There is therefore need for the Chamber of Commerce Busia chapter and its neighboring counties to understand and appreciate the significance of the huge market which needs to be fully tapped as far as its full energy potential is concerned’ he said adding that this will be complimented by various policies and regulations under the customs union, the common market as well as other key structures an SME charter which greatly amplify opportunities for the sector.
Dr. Dessai at the same time said that the completion of the East African Community Free Trade area is also significant for Busia County for access to trade by a possible 900 million people.
‘This is extremely significant because it will ensure that the market is tremendously grown and therefore the access to our potential is phenomenal,’ he said.
The official further said that the success of the common external tariff among the seven partner states of EAC will promote the Africanization of industrialization.
‘This will mean that many of the cottage industries that Busia has already embarked on including the cassava industry, the cotton industry will transition its existing production capacity to high value added products,’ he said adding that this will entail the ability of the entire country to reestablish its strategies in view of the already established market.
He called upon the county and national government to work together and create the necessary business ecosystem.
‘The government has also prioritized Busia’s efforts to create a more enabling environment for business,’ he said, adding that the government will be looking into policies and regulations pertaining to doing business.
The PS noted the unique intervention by cross border women traders who are important contributors to the development of trade within the context of the EAC and their support to them.
‘There is also a commitment by the Kenya Chambers to promote the highest level of leadership within the context of its membership to make full gains of the government’s policies and reforms today within the context of the EAC as well as its investments,’ he said.
Dr. Dessai at the same time said that the government is focused on the rehabilitation of the roads, upgrading the OSBP and it has plans to establish a greater customs union area thereby creating greater flow of goods across the border.
‘Two other markets have been developed, one in the process and is dedicated to women cross border traders, the second one which has been completed is a double storey building that is being used by fish traders,’ he said.
On the proposed Jumuiya market, the PS said that the beaconing of land is in the process and it is awaiting the issuance of the title deed from the lands office to start the formal works.
‘As soon as we get the title deed for the land, actual building will take at least one year,’ he said.
Busia County KNCCI vice chairman Sebastian Sunya cited trade imbalance as a major challenge to the trade between Kenya and Uganda.
Sunya said that Kenyans have been disadvantaged since most customers prefer crossing to Uganda to purchase goods.
‘For example, a bottle of beer sells at around shs 250 while a similar quantity sells at shs. 100 in Uganda,’ he said.
He urged the County government to issue traders with single business licenses instead of double taxation from small scale traders.
By Salome Alwanda