The East African Community (EAC) is establishing a Diaspora Desk aimed at facilitating citizens of the seven-member bloc living abroad to invest and trade in the region.
EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki said the Secretariat is also developing a Diaspora Engagement Strategy, providing a framework for interacting with that community.
He revealed the plans while in the US earlier in October, at an annual trade and investment conference, organized by the East Africa Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas.
The EAC is an intergovernmental organisation composed of seven countries in the Great Lakes region of East Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda.
The Texas meeting saw hundreds of EAC citizens living in the US, and investors focused on the region, converge to explore potential opportunities to expand trade and overcome obstacles to trade.
Mathuki's announcement comes after diaspora remittances have been on an upward trajectory in recent years. For instance, diaspora remittances last year in Kenya reached $3.718bn, in Uganda $599.3mn in Tanzania $569.5mn and Rwanda $246mn.
Together, remittances equal 35% of EAC’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which stood at $8.2bn and helped the region withstand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, he explained.
“The EAC recognizes the role of diaspora remittance, which continue to outpace Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) to become the largest source of external financing,” Mathuki said.
Members of the EAC diaspora, meanwhile, noted that lack of trust in local financial institutions is among the main obstacles to investment. The EAC is confident the new Diaspora Desk could help address and resolve such concerns.