Uganda was the only country in the region to record a 4.6% increase in trade in 2020, a year when average economic growth for the entire East African region fell to 2.3% compared to 5.4% in 2019.

Overall, EAC Member States lost $3.36 billion in trade during the year as the Covid-19 pandemic spread like wildfire, severing global trade ties and pushing regional and global economies in total shutdowns, according to the latest draft EAC Trade and Investment Report for 2020.

The report shows that total investment in the region decreased by almost 46.29% in 2020.

The overall trade of the six member states – Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan – fell by 6.08% to $51.91 billion during the period from $55.27 billion in 2019.

In the six years between 2015 and 2020, the region lost about $1.54 billion (three percent) of its trade to $51.91 billion from $53.45 billion in 2015, the report said.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic containment measures imposed by regional governments have had a negative impact on the free movement of goods and people. Unprecedented long queues of trucks have been seen at borders due to long periods of waiting for Covid-19 test results by truckers. Those who tested positive for Covid-19 were denied entry to neighboring partner states,” said EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki.


The report shows that EAC intra-regional exports fell by 7.37% in 2020 as the pandemic reduced manufacturing output and slowed economic activities.

Intra-EAC imports decreased by 3.71% over the same period.

Total EAC imports fell by 9.77% to $35.65 billion from $39.51 billion, due to containment measures adopted by governments, which reduced trade with import partners such as China, India and the EU.

On the positive side, the region’s total exports increased by 3.15% to $16.25 billion from $15.76 billion in 2019, due to the increase in the value of EAC exports. to the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Crisis in Burundi and Kenya

Burundi’s total trade fell 7.9% to $840.1 million in 2020 from $913.2 million in 2019, while exports to its EAC counterparts fell 16.4% to 12 $.2 million vs. $14.6 million.

Its overall domestic export earnings decreased by 24.57% to $153.42 million from $203.4 million, while domestic imports decreased by 2.59% to $909.81 million from $934 million over the same period.

Kenya’s total merchandise trade fell 8.76% to $21.42 billion in 2020 from $23.48 billion in 2019 as the country’s imports fell 12.7% to $15.4 billion against $17.64 billion. Its export business increased by 3.14%, with total exports to the rest of the world rising to $6.02 billion from $5.83 billion in the same period.

According to the report, Kenya remained the leader in services trade in the EAC and even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the services sector strongly supported the country’s economy.

In Rwanda, total merchandise trade increased by 13.17% to $3.59 billion in 2020.

However, while Rwanda’s imports increased by 2.28% to $2.63 billion from $2.57 billion, its exports to the rest of the world fell by 17.85% to $958.4 million. compared to $1.16 billion in 2019.

“Notwithstanding, trade in services plays an important role in Rwanda’s economy,” the report notes.

In 2020, intellectual property services in Rwanda grew by 100% and due to increased demand for ICT, telecommunications, computing and information services, the sub-sector grew by 5.4% , recording $20.9 million in revenue.

In South Sudan, total trade with the world decreased by 93.54% to $36.85 million from $553.22 million in 2019, while total intra-EAC trade with the South Sudan fell to $11.2 million from $232.7 million in the same period.

gold market

Minerals accounted for the largest proportion of Tanzania’s exports in 2020, with gold being the highest export worth $2.95 billion, accounting for over 50% of the country’s total exports.

Tanzania’s total trade increased slightly by 3.7% to $14.58 billion during the period from $14.05 billion in 2019.

The main destinations for Tanzania’s exports in the EAC during the year were Kenya ($230.2 million), Rwanda ($208 million), Uganda ($191.3 million) and Burundi ($179 million).

However, Uganda’s total trade increased by 4.6% to $12.39 billion in 2020 from $12.84 billion in 2019. Its imports increased by 6.41% to $8.25 billion from $7.75 billion, while total exports increased by 1.13% to $4.14 billion from $4.09 billion.

The report notes that despite the pandemic, there is great potential for trade and investment growth in the EAC and recommends that partner states review and harmonize Covid-19 testing fees, validity and implement mutual recognition of Covid-19 certificates to ensure safe and smooth movement of goods, people and services in the region.

It also recommends EAC member countries to implement the EAC Harmonized Covid-19 Administrative Guidelines and adopt the EAC Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan.

In addition, Partner States should provide an open, transparent and predictable investment regime and improve the ease of doing business.

They should embrace industrialization and value addition to promote exports, job creation and intra-EAC trade and reduce the trade imbalance.

The report reveals that the pandemic has wiped out more than $5 billion in EA’s investments and 153,000 jobs in one year.

Total investment in the East Africa region decreased by nearly 46.29% in 2020 to $6.25 billion from $11.64 billion in 2019.

Decline in FDI

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region decreased by 43.39%, $4.91 billion in 2020, compared to $8.67 billion in 2019, with only Burundi registering the highest percentage growth of 173 %, going from $127.2 million to $348.1 million.

FDI inflows to Kenya fell by 24.63% to $917.93 million, while inflows to Rwanda fell by 47.93% to a record $1.28 billion.

Notably, FDI inflows to South Sudan recorded a decline of 67.75% to $1.25 billion from $3.87 billion in 2019, while those to Tanzania fell by 71.25%. % to $754.59 million during the reporting period. FDI inflows into Uganda increased by 16.57% to reach $1.44 billion in 2020.

It was noted that attracting the highest FDI did not translate into more jobs as the number of jobs created as a result of FDI inflows into the EAC fell by 72, 5%, from 211,084 in 2019 to 58,017 jobs in 2020. Although Uganda attracted less FDI inflows compared to South Sudan (highest) and Rwanda (second), the country created the most jobs with 21,818 and representing 37% of the total number of jobs.

Rwanda created 19,218 (32.5%), while South Sudan created 3,948 jobs (6.6%), Kenya (4,738) and Burundi 6,135 jobs. FDI in Tanzania created the fewest jobs with 2,160.

National investments

According to the report, total intra-EAC investments fell by 80.27% to $142.95 million from $724.60 million as the number of projects fell to 61 from 74 in 2019.

The manufacturing sector attracted the highest number of FDI in 2020 with $1.44 billion, which created 8,749 jobs. Next come finance, insurance, real estate and business services.

The report notes that domestic investments have become the main development strategy of the EAC.

In 2020, Uganda recorded a strong increase in the value of domestic investment of 19.72% to $518.38 million, followed by Rwanda whose domestic investment stood at $331.39 million .

However, Burundi saw the largest percentage increase as it more than doubled its domestic investments from $87.2 million in 2019 to $251.57 million in 2020.

Globally, FDI flows fell 37% to less than $1 trillion for the first time since 2005, with the number of FDI projects also down by a third from previous levels. 2019.