The East Africa Business Council (EABC) has launched an award scheme for firms that have excelled at integrating their operations in the six-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc.

The body, made up of business lobbies in the region, said the inaugural ‘EABC Business Excellence Awards’ will honor companies that have been successful in integrating their vision, operations and business ethics.

“The business sector is a driving force in East Africa’s economy through creation of jobs and opportunities that enable citizens to earn a living and thrive as well as being a major player in the integration process,” EABC executive director Lilian Awinja told reporters in Nairobi Wednesday.

Online entries in three categories are open on the EABC website for companies in any of the EAC countries until February 7.

The first category is ‘Overall East African Regional Company’, while the second targets excellence in services, manufacturing, SMEs, woman-owned enterprise, green economy, innovation and corporate social responsibility.

The third category will recognise outstanding firms in seven industries: financial services, transport and logistics, tourism and hospitality, building and construction, media, extractive and mining.

“From SMEs to multinationals, everybody has an equal chance. They all have to earn their place at the table,” associate director at Adam Smith International Africa Patrick Obath, the lead judge of the six-member panel, said.

“There will be no bias as we have seen in the past. The process will be transparent, fair and rigorous.”

The judgement period will run between February 8 and March 7, resulting in selection of three finalists in each category.

The finalists will be made public on March 12 and will be battle for the top spot during at a gala night on March 23 when EABC will be marking its 20th anniversary.

PricewaterhouseCoopers have been appointed auditors for the awards which will be conducted every two years.