Preparations for the 23rd Edition of the East African Community’s (EAC) micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) trade fair that is expected to showcase the region’s innovations and trade are in top gear.
The trade fair, dubbed, the Jua Kali-Nguvu Kazi Exhibition is expected to attract more than 1,500 firms from all the seven EAC partner States.
Themed, “Connecting East African MSMEs to Enhance Intra EAC Trade,” the exhibition will run from December 5 to 15, 2023 at the Cercle Hyppique Grounds in Bujumbura, Burundi.
The trade fair is expected to contribute towards realising the region’s development goals and aspirations by lending support to this budding sector of the economy, which needs public patronage and government support to make it sustainable. “The trade fairs further create a considerable impact on the image of the sector, which is today seen as the panacea to the daunting question of unemployment and poverty alleviation in the region,” noted the EAC Secretariat in a statement.
The trade fair will also feature a daily symposium aimed at enhancing awareness of and the capacity of MSMEs.
The symposia will address matters such as opportunities for MSMEs in the region and under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the importance of trade associations in the partner States, tackling Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and requirements for formalising business in EAC.
Other topics to be discussed will include acquiring the Standards Mark in EAC, benefits of value addition and adaptation to appropriate technology for MSMEs in the region, and environment and food security in the EAC.
The first EAC MSMEs trade fair was held in Arusha, Tanzania in November 1999 during the historic signing of the treaty for the establishment of the EAC. Recently, Co-operatives and MSMEs Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui emphasised the importance of this event during the commissioning of the committee responsible for vetting the participating businesses.
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“I encourage Kenyan entrepreneurs to leverage this opportunity to share knowledge, forge new business links, launch innovative products and services, conduct test marketing, and enhance the brand and corporate image of products and enterprises from the EAC region,” he said in Nairobi.
MSME Authority Chairman James Mureu said they have taken a data-driven approach to select the firms set to participate in the trade fair. Intra-regional trade within the EAC has been on an upward trajectory, with the value recorded at $10.17 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) as of September 2022.
After the success of the Arusha exhibition, the EAC Heads of State directed that the exhibition be held annually on a rotational basis to enhance and revamp the socio-economic integration of the people of East Africa.