Dr. Kevit Desai, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for EAC. COURTESY PHOTO

EAC Partner States have been called upon to exploit the huge potential for export of raw cotton, leather and other textiles to the world market.

Kenya’s Principal Secretary for EAC, Dr. Kevit Desai, stated that two main objectives are required: “to broaden the horizon in as far as trade is concerned and increase exports” in addition to “greater aggregation and consolidation to increase the region’s exports to external markets”.

Dr. Desai was speaking at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, where he is also the Chairperson of the Coordination Committee, which brings together Permanent/Principal/Under Secretaries for EAC Affairs in the Partner States.

According to his speech, exports to the international market now stand at 8% therefore value chains such as textiles must be developed to improve export volume.

He noted that the region produces 100,000 metric tonnes of cotton compared to an existing export potential of 400,000 metric tonnes. “We need to harness science, technology and innovation to boost exports by investing in greater capacity to produce leather and textiles”, said the PS.

Intra-EAC commerce is now at 15%, which is “very low” when compared to other regional economic groupings such as the EU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Dr. Desai advised that increased investment in the leather and textile sectors would cater for the growing demand in the region for locally manufactured high quality clothes and leather products.

When asked about the high prevalence of Non-tariff Barriers in the region and their impact on intra-regional trade, the PS said that protectionism of national economies was natural but pointed out that greater potential among Partner States would open up markets and boost intra-EAC trade.

He concluded by calling upon Partner States to create the necessary networks to promote collaboration and boost intra-EAC trade by opening up their markets, emphasizing that this practice would also harness greater potential.