Over 300 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from across Kenya are proudly representing their nation at the 23rd East African Community (EAC) Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Trade Fair, currently underway in Bujumbura, Burundi. The event, themed “Connecting East Africa MSMEs to Enhance Intra-EAC Trade,” offers a platform for more than 1,500 MSMEs from all seven EAC partner states to showcase their products and services, fostering business-to-business connections and regional economic integration.
Official Opening and NTB App Launch
The trade fair was officially inaugurated on December 8th, 2023, by the Vice President of Burundi, Prosper Bazombanza. In his address, he highlighted the event’s significant role in promoting socioeconomic integration and fostering vibrant business opportunities for East African entrepreneurs.
During the opening ceremony, the EAC also unveiled the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) App, a joint effort between the EAC Secretariat and Trade Mark East Africa. This innovative platform aims to streamline the reporting, monitoring, and elimination of non-tariff barriers that hinder regional trade. The app provides different access levels for traders and NTB focal points in each EAC partner state, facilitating communication and collaboration for smoother trade flows.
Kenya’s Country Day: A Showcase of Innovation and Culture
Kenya’s designated country day featured a vibrant celebration of its diverse products, innovations, and cultural heritage. From captivating performances showcasing traditional songs and dances to displays of creative design, fashion, and artifacts, Kenyan MSMEs impressed the audience with their talent and ingenuity.
Cabinet Secretary for Cooperatives and MSME Development, Simon Chelugui, emphasized the significance of the trade fair in facilitating trade and business partnerships among participating countries. He specifically highlighted Burundi as a “virgin market” with immense potential, urging Kenyan MSMEs to explore the emerging opportunities for trade and investment in various sectors such as agro-processing, education, infrastructure, energy, and construction.
Addressing Challenges and Fostering Regional Growth
Chelugui also addressed the ongoing issue of EAC member states relying heavily on imports for products and services readily available within the region. He called for greater integration efforts in areas like language, currency, transportation, and mobile networks to unlock regional growth and sustainable development.
Principal Secretary for the State Department of MSMEs, Susan Mang’eni, emphasized the need to expand the scope of the trade fair to include investor participation. This would create opportunities for MSMEs to access funding and support, enabling them to scale up their operations and become major manufacturers. Additionally, she stressed the importance of integrating languages across the EAC to facilitate smoother trade and economic collaboration.
A Collective Effort for Regional Prosperity
The 23rd EAC Trade Fair serves as a powerful platform for Kenyan MSMEs to connect with potential partners, showcase their expertise, and access new markets throughout the region. By addressing existing challenges and fostering closer collaboration, the EAC can create an environment conducive to regional prosperity and empower MSMEs to become driving forces in the East African economy.