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East African nations resolve to boost economic integration

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Five East African countries on Thursday resolved to boost economic integration and continental trade facilitation by making trade between them and other countries cheaper, faster and simpler.

Representatives from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda also agreed in a joint statement issued in Nairobi, to implement trade facilitation reforms including reducing “non-tariff barriers” such as burdensome and incompatible product regulations.

“I feel so proud because this is an opportunity for the EAC countries, many of which are landlocked, to sell their products within the region, in Africa and across the whole world,” said Frederick Ngobi Gume, Uganda’s Minister for Cooperatives, whose country is currently chair of the East African Community (EAC).

Ngobi said the initiative which was agreed during a meeting moderated by Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), will go a long way to stimulate trade within the EAC and further afield.

“It also gives us an opportunity to simplify the import and export of commodities. Such an approach reduces bureaucracy, with online clearances reducing contacts at the border,” he added.

The representatives of the nations, who are members of the EAC customs union and common market committed to supporting National Trade Facilitation Committees as the main vehicle for coordinating the implementation of the trade facilitation measures at the national level.

According to UNCTAD, intra-EAC trade, while low compared to regions outside Africa, is the highest among regional economic communities in Africa at 19.35 percent of exports.

Kituyi who moderated the ministerial meeting, which took place in parallel with the first UNCTAD Africa eCommerce Week that ends in Nairobi on Friday, said EAC is a driving force in Africa, displaying good practice in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.

“The EAC Secretariat has shown strong leadership, and I am confident this will continue for smooth implementation at both national, regional and, eventually, continental levels,” the former Kenyan trade minister said.

Kituyi said the UNCTAD has supported the institutional architecture of trade facilitation in the East Africa region for many years.

“For example, we have helped launch trade portals, which simplify trade procedures and reduce the time and cost of trade transactions in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, and soon in Tanzania,” he added.

Thursday’s move comes after most African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA) in March.

The AfCFTA envisages establishing an African free trade area by building on regional blocs such as the EAC where trading nations already work together.



South Africa joins African Tripartite Free Trade Area

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa has deposited the instrument of ratification of an agreement establishing the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said on Thursday.

The TFTA comprises three regional economic blocks—the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

South Africa did this on the margins of a meeting of African Union (AU) trader ministers in Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 12-13. The deposit of the instrument means that South Africa has formally and legally committed to the TFTA.

“It was the tripartite initiative that led to the work of broadening the integration beyond our existing regional communities and working toward establishment of large free trade areas across our continent,” said South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Chileshe Kapwepwe, chair of the Tripartite Task Force and the secretary general of COMESA, congratulated South Africa for the action.

She said six other countries are in the process of depositing their instruments.

The TFTA was launched in June 2015 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. It intends to integrate the continent and create a big market of 626 million people with a combined gross domestic product of 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars.

Twenty-two of 26 member states have signed the agreement. South Africa signed the agreement in July 2017 and its parliament ratified the agreement in October this year.

South Africa is the fourth country to deposit the instrument of ratification. The other three countries are Egypt, Uganda and Kenya. The agreement will enter into full force once it has been ratified by 14 countries.

South Africa’s trade with TFTA countries represents about 16 percent of its trade with the world, the DTI said.


Kenya and China  to promote co-operation in science and innovation

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s education ministry and China’s top scientific think-tank on Thursday in Nairobi signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote cooperation in the areas of science, research and innovation.

Under the MOU, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kenya and Chinese Academy of Sciences will support a variety of science, technology, innovation and higher education cooperative activities between China and Africa in the areas of ecosystem and environment protection, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, agriculture, health, the development and demonstration of adaptable technologies via the Sino-Africa Joint Research Center (SAJOREC).

Amina Mohamed, cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kenya, said at the signing ceremony that Kenya hopes to broaden Sino-Kenya cooperation to other institutions of higher learning by facilitating international twinning in order to develop an ecosystem necessary to foster cutting-edge research and innovation that will go to full commercialization.

Mohamed said that both countries will collaboratively put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure the full realization of the agreement, adding that Kenya’s collaboration with China constitutes a core strand in the delivery of national development priorities.

She revealed that the exchange of scholars between the two countries will position Kenyan and Chinese institutions as global centers of innovation and entrepreneurship which will in turn create capacity to drive attainment of the continental education strategy for Africa and Kenya’s Big Four agenda.

Bai Chunli, president of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the institution attaches great importance to scientific cooperation with the international community, and highly values its relationship with Kenya and Africa.

Bai noted that over the past five years, SAJOREC has served as an outreach of the academy in Africa to develop substantial partnerships and projects with around 20 academic institutions in Kenya and other African countries.

“Through this channel, we have provided 122 scholarships to qualified African students to pursue post graduate courses in China,” he added.

He said that over the next three years, SAJOREC will provide 150 new scholarships to students from Africa.

Bai said that future projects to be developed under the framework of SAJOREC will include the joint development of research and development centers for modern agriculture and traditional medicines, and a ground-based satellite data receiving station.

SAJOREC is a partnership between Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It focuses on research in sustainable natural resource conservation, biomedicines for universal health and modern agricultural techniques.


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