Luckymore Rusero and his family walk past a collapsing road in Chimanimani, southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

JOHANNESBURG  – Tanzanian magnate Ali Mufuruki has accused local politicians of failing to promote policies that encourage investment in the East Africa Community (EAC), which business leaders say has been impeded by protectionism and political differences.

“We have never had the discussion on why there isn’t a single billion-dollar company in East Africa," Mufuruki told the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, according to the East African.

"If we have that conversation, people will start to ask whether it is going to be a Tanzanian or a Rwandan company. We need to be honest with each other and ask what we really want from this union,” 

Mufuruki told the forum that he had struggled to hire workers in the region, urging EAC partners to relax labour laws and abolish work permits. He also suggested that politicians allow the business community, which is driven by profit and growth, to lead EAC integration.

“If business leaders are allowed in the rooms where policies are made, then business can be put at the forefront and we will make more progress,” he said.

The Tanzanian magnate’s sentiments were supported by RwandAir chief executive officer Yvonne Makolo who said the lack of an open skies policy had continued to make air travel expensive for most people in the region and on the whole African continent.

Makolo said most countries only paid lip service to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) while continuing to put limitations on airlines from other African countries.

“Protectionism is still big, with governments refusing to open up their skies. When that is resolved, then we shall see more frequencies of different airlines within the region and airfares will go down as demand goes up," she said.

"This will drive tourism and trade, and so it is very frustrating to see resistance among some African countries."

The SAATM was launched by the African Union in 2018 to open the skies, with 23 countries committing to the pact, but its implementation remains unfulfilled.

- African News Agency (ANA)