A diaspora desk to facilitate the East Africans living abroad is set to be established, the East African Community (EAC) announced early this month. Also, the secretariat is developing a Diaspora Engagement Strategy, providing a framework for interacting with the diaspora community, according to EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki.
He revealed this when he addressed the East Africa 17th Annual Trade and Investment Conference, organized by the East Africa Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas – USA.
The diaspora community, according to EAC, highlighted a lack of trust in local financial institutions as one of the challenges deterring investment in East Africa. Dr. Mathuki urged the diaspora community to establish financial institutions such as an EAC diaspora bank, located in one of EAC’s Partner States, where they can access credit and transact business.
Dr. Mathuki said the diaspora community will be incorporated in EAC signature events, such as Pre-Summit retreats, offering them an opportunity to engage with EAC Heads of State, Ministers, and the regional business community.
The Secretary-General urged the diaspora community to take advantage of EAC’s online investment guide portal (https://www.eac.int/investment-guide), which highlights investment procedures, incentives, and opportunities; and increases transparency on access to relevant information required by investors.
“The EAC Trade Information Portal available on our website also provides a step-by-step guide on licenses, pre-clearance permits, and clearance formalities for the most traded goods within, to, and from the East African Community,” he added.
The inflow of funds from the diaspora has been on an upward trajectory in recent years. For instance, in 2021, the Kenyan diaspora remittance stood at $3.718 billion, while remittances from Uganda stood at $599.3M, according to EAC. The inflow of funds from the Tanzania diaspora stood at $569.5 while the Rwanda diaspora remitted $246 million, EAC added.
“The inflow of funds from the diaspora contributed largely to the EAC’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which stood at $8.2 billion- a 35% growth; and helped the region’s economy withstand the devastating economic impact of Covid-19 and the trickle-down effect of the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” the Secretary-General added.
Dr. Mathuki noted that the time taken to register a business had reduced significantly and the establishment of One Stop Centres for business registration had further eased the process.
“EAC has developed a master plan for the development of infrastructure, creating linkages for Intra EAC road and railway networks as well in Airports and Port projects. It is thus opportune to tap into the Public-Private Partnerships to invest in this infrastructure in the region,” Dr. Mathuki added.
The opportunities in advisory and facilitatory areas to access finances and technology, ICT, and health, particularly in Physical and Mental Health were also highlighted as potential areas of investment.
In her remarks, the East Africa Chamber of Commerce (EACC) Chair, Ms. Elsa Juko McDowell noted that the diaspora community is ready to invest in the region and is keen on collaborating with the EAC governments.
“We are committed to continuing collaborating in supporting the USA – East Africa trade relations, promoting trade missions and cooperation, and marketing East Africa as a trade and investment destination,” she added.
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