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East Africa Community Startup Ecosystem Integration | How to make it work


Regional integration of current East Africa member states was launched in 1993 through the East African Tripartite Commission and has evolved into a five-nation common market of 133.5 million people (2009) with an estimated USD 74.5 billion GDP and average GDP per capita of $558 (EAC Secretariat, 2010). Figure 1 below gives a snapshot of the integration process and current state of play.

Figure 1: EAC Integration Milestone

Source: EAC Industrialization policy

Between 2005 and 2010, the EAC implemented a Customs Union which focused on:

1. A Common External Tariff (CET) on imports from third countries - raw materials (0%), intermediate products (10%) and finished goods (25%), the latter percentage being fixed as the maximum;

2. Duty-free trade between the Partner States;

3. Common customs procedures.

In 2010, the EAC Partner States signed a Common Market Protocol (CMP) which, among other objectives, focuses on accelerating regional economic growth and development by introducing the free movement of goods, persons and labour, the right of establishment and residence, and the free movement of services and capital. In addition, the EAC Common Market is expected to strengthen, coordinate and regulate the economic and trade relations among the Partner States in order to promote accelerated, harmonious and balanced development. Other benefits of the Common Market include:

1. Sustaining equitable regional economic expansion and integration of economic activities within the Community

2. Enhancing research and technological advancement to accelerate economic and social development.

The current integration model has placed great emphasis on manufacturing underpinned natural resources in order to unlock the gross aggregate demand of goods by the EAC population of 134 million.

Technology driven innovation has emerged as a key driver in economic development in both the public and private sector with Kenya leading in innovation in the region coming 3rd behind Egypt and South Africa (Global Innovation Index 2020).

Further, African nations have identified startup driven innovation as potential key drivers to socio economic transformation and made important steps to creating an enabling environment through enactment of supportive legislation. Countries with such legislations include: Tunisia, Senegal with Ghana, Mali, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania in the process.

EAC member states must create an enabling environment for startups at two distinct and correlated levels:

1. National Level

2. Regional Level (Based on EAC industrialization policy principle of promoting targeted industry value chains (strategic regional industries) with widespread linkages and economic benefits extending across the region.

To build innovation competitiveness of the region, focus must be put on aligning the following sample innovation factors:

Figure 2 : EAC Sample Innovation performance Indicators

Source: Global Innovation Index 2020

About EAC Startup Ecosystem Integration Webinar series

The three-part series seeks to explore how EAC can harness the potential of its startups through exploring strategies of alignment of key innovation factors and providing insights and recommendation to relevant policy and legislative organs.

The series will take the form of virtual webinars that will bring together the following key stakeholders the region:

1. Startup Entrepreneur support organization (ESOs)

2. Startups

3. Startup Investors

The series objectives are:

1. Take stock and evaluate current national and regional policy and legislative interventions

2. Establish the needs of startups in scaling within the EAC

3. Establish the state of startup investment and identify bottlenecks

4. Provide recommendation to relevant stakeholders


Part 1

EAC Entrepreneurship Support Organization

The session brings together Innovation Hubs, Startup Accelerators and Incubators based in East Africa

Themes to be covered:

1. EAC Policy and Legislative topography

2. EAC ESO Linkages

3. Regional Business Support

Date: 13th May 2021

Part 2

Vantage Point of EAC Startups

The session brings together startup founders and entrepreneurs in East Africa

Themes to be covered:

1. Policy and Legislative topography

2. EAC Market intelligence

3. Evaluation of startup Investment

Date: 20th May 2021

Part 3

Startup Investors perspective

The session brings together startup investors in East Africa

Themes to be covered

1. Ease of doing business

2. State of startup deal pipeline

3. Due diligence in COVID 19 era

Date: 27th May 2021

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