Kampala. Trade Development Forum, a regional conference where trade and development agendas are discussed, came to an end with a call for a shift away from aid to partnership.
Should this narrative continue to gain momentum then it will not be long before it effectively replaces trade for aid mantra, which now appears to have been burdened by its history and futile results over the years.
At the Trade Development Forum (TDF) held last week at Munyonyo in Kampala, It became almost obvious that the desired term is now partnership for aid and not so much trade for aid as it has been the case for some time now.
Most of the distinguish panellists, while arguing their case, expressed believe that partnership between countries, the private sector and NGOs are crucial in delivering the most-sought after development in the region.
If this call is heeded by the regional governments, among them Uganda, it means that millions of dollars in aid poured in from developed countries will be invested in joint projects where the donors and a government have specific roles to play as well as equal responsibility.
According to the Trade minister, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, Uganda and the region is better off partnering with donors in trade infrastructural projects as well as in trade facilitation programmes such as one stop border post (OSPB) where both parties accrue value for money.
In partnership with the government, several donors through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), a not-for profit organisation whose objective is to facilitate trade in the region, executed the grand OSBP project which has since seen a decline of 50 per cent on the average time taken to cross borders, especially for cargo clearing.
Discussing aid, trade and the future at the recently concluded TDF, the director general of the East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery office at the African Development Bank, Dr Gabriel Negatu, argued that real partnership lies in empowering small and medium businesses in the region.
He said: “We believe that financing trade is an area that development partners can help out because there is need to do so. Most local banks are not well capitalised and that means they cannot effectively attend to the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).Development partners can provide line of credits that allows guarantees or allow affordable borrowing to SMEs.”
Already, at African Development Bank, according to Dr Negatu, they have been providing line of credit that allows lending to SMEs, adding that it can be up scaled if donors take to it.
Ms Kyambadde said: “...let’s trade in finished goods. We shouldn’t use our borders for exporting raw produces because we will not be benefiting as much as we should.”
Mr Ali Mufuruki, the chairman of Infotech Investment Group Ltd, said the region as well as the entire continent must partake in the global trade where it is performing dismally. But before that happens he advised that the regional intra trade must be take shape, which in turn will act as a launch pad to the continental trade and thereafter global trade.