Auto Springs East Africa workers in action at the company's factory in Limuru. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

Kenyan manufacturers have been challenged to tap into the huge market in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after its inclusion in the East African Community (EAC) bloc.

EAC Principal Secretary (PS) Kevit Desai urged industrialists to target increasing their production capacities by doing value addition to meet the demand of the 300 million population in the bloc.

Speaking during a tour at Capwell Industries in Thika which processes maize flour and rice, the PS said the six-nation EAC market has become huge, opening up new frontiers and opportunities for manufacturers to trade.

“DRC inclusion in the EAC has offered a big opportunity to our manufacturers to think big and increase production by being competitive, innovative and diversifying their production capabilities. Value addition has the highest transformative ability,” said Desai.

The PS said industrialisation would lead to opening up of more opportunities for new jobs, markets for local produce and help in fighting poverty in the region.

Mr Desai also rooted for collaboration between manufacturers and the government on market access and promotion of compliance in regulations and policy frameworks.

He noted that despite the EAC being a big market, only 12 per cent of the business is traded within the market compared to other blocs like the European Union (EU) that trade at between 60 per cent and 70 per cent.

He told local manufacturers to venture into markets across the other 44 countries in the continent, translating to a market of over 900 million people.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers Chairman Rajan Shah decried high taxes and the huge cost of raw materials, transport costs and tariffs, noting that they have frustrated many manufacturers and kept others out of the market.

“We have lots of lost opportunities because we have about 6,000 tariff lines of items that can be exported duty-free into the US but we only do about 10,” said Shah, who is also the MD of Capwell Industries.

Kevit Desai;DRC;EAC