Speaking at the official opening of the 21st MSME Trade Fair at Rock City Grounds in Mwanza, Dr Mathuki reaffirmed that EAC partner states still have a critical role to play in enabling the growth of MSMEs to to ensure long-term sustainability and recovery by promoting programs that prioritize MSMEs to stimulate demand for quality finished products and gradually improve the competitiveness of the region.
“As a Community, we have a responsibility to enable the growth of MSMEs to ensure sustainability and long-term recovery,” said Dr Mathuki.
The EAC official informed exhibitors that this year’s theme recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade and places more emphasis on quality and innovation as critical paths to improve competitiveness.
Dr Mathuki praised the efforts of MSMEs for their resilience in adopting new business models to enable business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He called on partner states to also encourage research and development as a precondition for innovation and growth. Dr Mathuki cited as an example Malaysia’s national marketing platform, PlaTCOM Ventures, which helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful products and services. The development of industrial micro-parks with shared equipment and resources could incubate the next generation of manufacturers, added the secretary general.
The Secretary-General challenged partner states to provide all the support necessary to ensure that MSMEs are export-ready and ready to compete with larger players and offer alternatives to imported products.
Dr Mathuki informed the exhibitors that banks and financial institutions have already carried out a significant number of initiatives in East Africa to support MSMEs, including the suspension of loan repayments, fee waivers, loans from relief and fast-track loan approvals in a bid to support post-COVID. -19 economic recovery of the sector.
“I am confident that through the collective and collaborative economic recovery efforts of COVID-19 at the national and regional levels, we will be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of commercial MSME production,” said Dr Mathuki.
Guest of Honor Minister of Industry and Trade Prof.Kitila Mkumbo said that the main objective of the EAC MSME Trade Fair is to provide a platform to strengthen marketing ties. for MSME sector products and services in the region to enable them to access the existing regional market with a population of over 100 million people.
He reaffirmed the commitment of the six partner states to the EAC regional integration initiatives, such as the current exhibition, adding that the key element of the integration agenda was to do business together as a Community. and expand the market beyond East Africa, as well as remove barriers. trading.
Prof Mkumbo revealed that EAC partner states have agreed to address the challenges impacting the growth and development of MSMEs and industries in the region by crafting policies that will facilitate cross-border business in the region.
The Minister further noted that some partner states were establishing mechanisms to facilitate access to affordable capital by MSMEs from financial institutions.
The 21st edition of the annual EAC MSMEs under the theme “Promoting quality and innovation to improve the competitiveness of EAC MSMEs and post COVID -19 recovery”, attracted more than 1,500 artisans from the six states EAC partners, namely the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and host country, United Republic of Tanzania.
The 1st EAC MSME Trade Fair was held in Arusha, Tanzania, in November 1999 during the historic event of the signing of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Following the success of the Arusha exhibition, the heads of state of the EAC ordered that the exhibition be held annually by rotation among the partner states in order to improve and reorganize the socio-economic integration of the peoples. from East Africa.
Also present at the opening ceremony were Jenista Joackim Mhagama, Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office (Politics, Parliamentary Affairs, Labor, Youth, Employment and People with Disabilities) Tanzania; Hon. David Osiany, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, Kenya; the presiding judge of the East African Court of Justice, Judge Nestor Kayobera; Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Eng. Robert Luhumbi; and EAC Director General of Customs and Trade Kenneth Bagamuhunda, among others.