Manufacturers from the East African Community are pressing governments of member states with demands to facilitate the struggling sector.
“We want more work done by our governments to provide rich environment for manufacturing industry,” Betty Maina, head of Kenya Association of manufacturers told KT Press.
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East Africa is one of the continent’s emerging markets with growing industries such as manufacturing.
This, however, according to Robert Bayigamba, head of Rwanda’s Association of Manufacturers (RAM), “We still have a long way to go.”
For example, Rwanda struggles to promote the sector, with a target of reach at least 20% of GDP in the next five years from the current 7%.
In other member states, the sector is also underperforming. In Kenya it contributes 10% to the GDP, while Tanzania and Uganda it is 8% and 7% respectively.
In Burundi, the sector contributes 0%. “We are saddened by the slow growth of the sector in my country,” Bernard Selemani, the head of Burundi’s ‘Association des Industriels du Burundi’, told KT Press.
The manufacturing sector in the region is currently dominated by construction materials and ago-processing sub-sectors.
According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB), manufacturing investments, excluding ago-processing have grown from $20 million to $155 million in the past three years.
Denis Karera that heads the East African Business Council says that, “We are advocating for total elimination of trade barriers in the region.”
Last week, members of the East African manufacturers formed what they called ‘East African Manufacturers Network’ aimed at collectively addressing issues hindering the sector in the region.
“We want to work with the East African Business Council to promote manufacturing sector. For instance, we have moved a step with governments to cut taxes on textile industries by 25%.”
Karera, a Rwandan, who has just been elected to head 54 business associations, says, “We want governments to make our business better…this includes reducing prices on air transport to ease movement of people.”
In March, Godfrey Kabera, the Director of Planning at Rwanda’s ministry of finance and economic planning, told KT Press that, “manufacturing is lagging because factories are not producing to capacity”.
He added that indeed the cost of doing business is high because there is insufficient energy and there is lack of access to raw materials.