East Africa businesses call for COVID-19 rescue plan

People stand in line for mass testing in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
People stand in line for mass testing in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The East Africa Chamber of Commerce said on Friday it will be engaging respective governments to set up a COVID-19 rescue plan as they wait for the opening of economies to resume full operations.

Paul Koyi, president of Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said the chamber should come up with a common position that tells governments exactly the kind of rescue plan that is most appropriate.

“We should come with a proposal to the governments on guidance and discussion on the economic revival needs of the business community,” said Koyi in a webinar with his East Africa colleagues.

He said the border issue that is affecting Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania should be resolved as a matter of urgency to enable businesses to recover.

“Trade facilitation within the boarder can contribute a lot to remedy the situation on the ground,” he said.

He called on the governments to consider setting up an economic bail-out fund using institutions like the East Africa Development Bank.

Brenda Tumukunde, a representative of the Federation of Uganda Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said business capital has been used to feed families and therefore a rescue plan is necessary.

She said there will be a major shift in the way business is conducted in the future and therefore, there will be a need for a lot of training to re-orient business owners and staff on coping mechanisms.

“We do not know when COVID-19 will go away. Therefore, business re-engineering will happen. We shall not do things as usual. So how do we help our members to cope? There is a need for more training to help our members to manage change,” Tumukunde said.