L-R: Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Uganda President Museveni and Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta meeting investors in Uganda recently
The East African legislative assembly has tasked regional governments to come up with a uniform comprehensive investment policy to guide investments in the East African region.
In line with efforts to increase investment in East Africa, the assembly wants partner states to formulate and harmonise investment codes and regimes that promote industrialization and investments, leading to economic development.
These are some of the recommendations contained in a report presented by the Communication, Trade and Investments committee chairperson, Fred Mukasa Mbidde and later adopted by the House.
Mbidde states that though each partner state has made headway in creating a conducive environment for investment locally, it is imperative that the region adopts a harmoised approach towards attracting investment.
Furthermore, the report adds, there is no transparency in EAC partner states while attracting investments, unlike the case in COMESA where there is a regional investment agency which transmits information regarding all foreign investors to member states.
“The EAC region does not have a common investment policy which would guide investment on a regional basis. Various policies relating to investment are scattered in the various regional key documents such as the treaty, the development strategies, the private investment strategy and other policy documents… there is no established mechanism for investment partnerships between foreign and local investors in the EAC region”, Mbidde said.
The EAC Protocol requires partner states to protect cross border investments and non-discrimination of investors of other partner states. Several legislators wondered why, in the quest for regional integration, partner states continue to operate in isolation.
Susan Nakawuki, Uganda’s representative to EALA, wondered why foreign investors are given more attention through tax holidays and incentives, yet local investors are ignored.
Nancy Abisai from Kenya also noted the need for the policies to create opportunity for access to financing for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
“We must make sure that the investment climate and environment is conducive for people to do business in the region not just in particular countries. We have some very good policies and strategies from individual countries but they are so disintegrated that we need find a common point to create synergies”, said Abisai.
Abubakar Zein, EALA representative from Kenya, says without good governance within the region, calling for more investments from both within and out is in vain. He says steps should be taken to ensure that the investment climate is stable.
“Without governance, we will not have good investment, we will not be able to protect our people in East Africa. We will not also be able to protect the investors, therefore its important that this report and the future work of this committee to also bring attention to the governance framework within the East African region community and to remind ourselves that there is a pending business in completing the governance protocol that was proposed in this community.”
Legislators Peter Mutuku (Kenya) and Shy-Rose Bhanji, (Tanzania) demanded that the legislators hold more consultations with their citizens to seek their views on the recommendations in the report, since they will benefit from it.
In response, Shem Bageine, the Minister of East African Community Affairs, concurred that the Council of Ministers will fast track the formulation of the investment policy.
“We have an excellent treaty but we need to translate these ideas into action. We will not transform our economies until we fully industrialise and add value to our products. As council of ministers, we will study the report and look critically at recommendations so we can implement where possible,” Bageine promised.