The East African Community (EAC) Deputy Secretary General Christophe Bazivamo has called on member states to speed up the process of harmonized procurement laws so as to improve regional apparel, footwear and medicine industry.
Bazivamo, who is also in charge of Productive and Social Sectors at the EAC Secretariat said that these three areas have a wide potential to grow but have not been developed due to lack of improvement in the manufacturing sector in the region.
“We need to see the role of procurement in improving the regional manufacturing sector, which largely depends on imports yet the assessment we did shows that we have potential to produce our own shoes, medicine and clothing,” Bazivamo said at the 13th East African Procurement Forum (EAPF2021).
At the two day forum that kicked off in Kigali this Thursday bringing together procurement industry experts, suppliers and bidders, Bazivamo asked for solutions especially harmonizing laws and policy to work and complement each other.
Bazivamo said that harmonisation of such policies will enable EAC to achieve its middle income economy status by 2032 through increasing the share of value added products at an average of 8.6% (in 2017) to 40% average.
With this background, the EAC Heads of State directed member states to put in place modalities to promote key sectors of textile, leather, automotive industry and pharmaceuticals in order to promote local industries by stopping importation of new and used products from outside the region.
The region has developed strategies that outline modalities to promote the sectors (above) and the use of public procurement of locally made products has been identified as a measure to reach its targets.
Bazivamo however showed that the EAC assessment on each of the key sectors is performing below average.
For example; leather has a huge potential of demand for 80million pairs of shoes needed per year and building 60 factories but has a growth of 1.5% annually and only 2% is produced locally.
On shoes alone, if produced in EAC, Bazivamo said that the region can compensate $6.2 lost annually due to shoe imports and would create over 56.000 jobs offered in outsourcing annually.
In cotton (clothing) sector, of which some countries, like Rwanda, have already banned import of second hand clothes; Bazivamo said the sector accounts for 3.7% of regional trade (2013-2019) yet plants are operating at below 40% capacity while demand for clothes is in school, army and police uniforms.
In pharmaceuticals, Bazivamo showed that only 15% of medicine commonly used in EAC is produced locally, yet research showed that EAC can produce medicines like paracetamol.
Bazivamo said that these sectors can be promoted using local procurement and urged that forum to find a way of making this happen, however said that the first steps have to be made through improved manufacturing locally products that can be sold in any of the regional countries with ease.
“We need to have the concept of made in East Africa, and through harmonizing procurement laws, we can help reduce the import of such products of which we have potential to manufacture locally,” he said.
Francine Gatarayiha, an e-procurement Business Analyst said currently Rwanda is ranked top in implementing procurement procedures, and harmonization of regional procurement systems is possible if all countries follow existing global 133 modules in place of which Rwanda has done.
For example Rwanda has a procurement structure and strategy but lacking an engagement model and working on performance management among the modules.
To seal this commitment, Rwanda today launched its first regional e-procurement system (e-umucyo) with an automated- artificial intelligence backed toll free call center (3131) which can take in over 100 calls simultaneously.
The Director General of Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA), Joyeuse Uwingeneye said that Rwanda has made tremendous steps in ensuring a transparent procurement system because the country gives importance to transparency and fighting corruption.
Uwingeneye said the forum shall mark further evidence of Rwanda’s commitment to support every effort to improve efficiency of public procurement systems across the region but stated that each member state must make its own progress.
“Considering the risks of fraud and corruption that are in public procurement, as Rwanda we would love to have each country at the same level but we will not wait for other countries to do what they are supposed to do,” Uwingeneye said.