Trade in the five-nation East African Community bloc has received a major boost after the Finnish government gave a 9.8 million euros (about Sh1.09 billion) grant to TradeMark East Africa to support its work.

The funds will be channelled to initiatives that will reduce the time and cost of transporting goods, TMEA said yesterday.

The cash is expected to broaden TMEA’s regional integration programme at the Port of Dar es Salaam and key border posts along the Central Corridors.

“We aim to contribute to increased trade through improvements to trade competitiveness by reducing barriers to trade and improving business competitiveness. This strategy will contribute to $10 billion (Sh104 billion) of additional trade in East Africa by 2023,” TMEA CEO Frank Matsaert said.

The agreement was signed in Nairobi by the Finnish Ambassador to Kenya Tarja Fernández.

Finland’s strategy for development puts more emphasis on the regional economic integration.

The Finnish government says it believes that supporting increased trade and helping the private sector in the region will accelerate economic growth and create jobs.

“We know that the new strategy will move the region beyond the accomplishments of the past,” Fernández said.

TMEA aims to contribute to increased trade in Eastern Africa, both increased intra-regional trade and increased trade between the region and the rest of the world.

TMEA has been focusing on improved trade competitiveness through simultaneously reducing barriers to trade across Eastern Africa, enabling trade to flow through the region more efficiently.

The welfare value of TMEA’s trade benefits for East Africa is estimated at $17 billion (Sh176.8 billion) over a ten-year period, representing strong value for money for the $ 560 million(Sh58.2 billion) invested it has invested , Matsaert said.