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Strengthening East African Trade: Preparations underway for the 23rd EAC MSMEs Trade Fair

Preparations are in high gear for the 23rd East African Community (EAC) Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Trade Fair, an annual event that is held on a rotational basis between the seven partner states. This year’s event, themed “Connecting East Africa MSMEs to Enhance Intra EAC Trade,” will take place from the 5th to the 15th of December 2023 at the Cercle Hyppique grounds in Bujumbura, Burundi, and promises to be an occasion for fostering forward linkages, strengthening regional integration and facilitating business exchanges for the 1500 MSMEs who will be in attendance.

Speaking during the commissioning of the Kenya multisectoral National Organizing Committee for the Fair, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Cooperatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Development Hon. Simon Chelugui highlighted the untapped potential of Burundi as a gateway to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the broader Central Africa region and said that the Trade fair will present an opportunity for over 300 Kenyan MSMEs to expand their reach into this regional market. “This trade fair will not only provide a platform for showcasing Kenya’s offerings in the regional market but also play a pivotal role in facilitating trade and creating market linkages between producers, aggregators/off-takers, and the final consumers. I implore Kenya MSMEs to leverage this opportunity to establish a foothold and exploit the emerging opportunities in terms of trade and investment in sectors such as Agro-processing, Education, Health and Medical, Finance and banking, Energy, Light Manufacturing, and the construction industry in Burundi and other regional markets,” he stated.

The EAC region, with a market size of 300 million people and a GDP of approximately US$250 billion, represents a compelling opportunity to boost intra-EAC trade. The geographical expansion of the EAC, which now stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, makes it a competitive gateway to the larger African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Thanks to the EAC Common Market Protocol and EAC Customs Union, trade barriers and tariffs have been significantly reduced, while customs procedures have been harmonized among member states, streamlining trade processes.

The Cabinet Secretary Hon. Simon Chelugui, making his remarks during the official commissioning of the National Organizing Committee.

MSEA Director General, Mr. Henry Rithaa making his remarks, he emphasized the significance of this event as an ideal platform for promoting diversified Kenyan brands.

Recent data reveals the substantial growth in Kenyan exports to the EAC region over the past five years, amounting to $1.4 billion. The National Export Development and Promotion Strategy aspires to increase this figure by ensuring that 60% of Kenya’s manufactured products are exported to regional and global markets, thereby growing the country’s export target by 25%. These efforts align with Kenya’s projected export growth, expected to rise by 15% this year, primarily due to increased sales to new African countries following the operationalization of the AfCFTA.

MSEA Board Chairman Mr. James Mureu expressed the government’s commitment to leveraging international markets to create opportunities for its citizens, businesses, and investors. This includes developing goods that meet the needs and requirements of regional and international markets.

The EAC Customs Union has significantly boosted commerce between Kenya and other member countries. In 2021, Kenya’s exports to Burundi reached US$68.69 million, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

Addressing the committee and media during the commissioning, MSEA Director General Mr. Henry Rithaa, emphasized the significance of this event as an ideal platform for promoting diversified Kenyan brands, testing newly created technologies, and enhancing Kenya’s business presence in Burundi and neighboring countries within the enlarged East Africa Community trading bloc. “The Authority is pleased to spearhead and coordinate Kenya’s participation at the EAC MSMEs Exhibition and Trade Fair and is further collaborating with agencies represented in the National Organizing Committee to create forward linkages for participating MSMEs post-event. This includes developing a framework to support the linkage of farmers/small-scale MSMEs with Priority Value chain processors through sub-contracting and expanding the catalogue of the Authority’s Digital Marketing platform,’’ he said.

The Multi-sectoral National Organizing Committee will vet participating MSMEs and their products to ensure the image of Kenya and the sector is well represented through high-quality products and services. To participate in the Exhibition, Kenyan exhibitors are required to register at the nearest MSEA office or at https://msea.go.ke/wpcontent/uploads/2022/04/MSEA-Regional-Offices.pdf

Cabinet Secretary Hon. Simon Chelugui (centre) MSEA Board Chairman Mr. James Mureu, MSEA Director General Mr. Henry Rithaa and members of the National Organizing Committee from KRA, KIPI, Uwezo Fund, KNCCI, Strathmore Business School and Foreign Affairs

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