The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the East African Community (EAC) are to launch a new US$8.5 million joint project to boost intra-African trade.
The Trade and Regional Integration Project (TRIP) to be initially financed by Finland was announced by the EAC Secretary-General Amb Dr Richard Sezibera and ITC Executive Director Arancha González on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya fromDecember 15-18.
The new initiative aims to strengthen existing efforts by East African Partner States for closer economic integration, including the East African Customs Union and the EAC Common Market, and the ITC and the EAC will intervene at three levels:  enterprise, institutional and at the trade policy level ‘to provide integrated solutions to problems of SME competitiveness’.
The TRIP for EAC project set for implementation in January 2016 also sets out to support the African Union’s Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and the recently agreed tripartite free-trade agreement among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the EAC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Specifically, the project aims to boost the competitiveness of EAC-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), enabling them to step up intra-and inter-regional trade. The project will have a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment, and will also support wider private-sector development in the EAC to spur deeper economic integration, including in agriculture, information and communication technologies (ICT), and tourism.
According to Ms Gonzalez, regional integration led by the private sector is a powerful vehicle for boosting growth, creating jobs and promoting economic development.
 “Enabling the private sector and policymakers to take advantage of trade opportunities is at the heart of what ITC does. We are looking forward to doing this in collaboration with the EAC, and to ensuring sustainable growth for East African countries and their SMEs,” Ms González added.
EAC Secretary General Ambassador Sezibera said the cooperation will contribute to improve the global competitiveness of the EAC region and to trigger sustainable economic growth.