Editorial: Regional integration is not a dream, it is a reality

This week, a seemingly small project was concluded in Uganda. However short and insignificant it might seem, the construction of a 37km road that connects Ntungamo and Mirama Hills on the Rwandan border will have a huge impact as it will reduce the time it takes to transport goods from Mombasa to Kigali.

This week, a seemingly small project was concluded in Uganda. However short and insignificant it might seem, the construction of a 37km road that connects Ntungamo and Mirama Hills on the Rwandan border will have a huge impact as it will reduce the time it takes to transport goods from Mombasa to Kigali.

That is just one outcome of joining the East African Community (EAC).

Ten years have passed since Rwanda joined the EAC. While the ultimate goal is to have a political federation, the road is still winding and long. But slowly and surely it will be achieved.

In the meantime, a range of projects to enhance regional integration are up and running. One major one is the free movement of people and goods. While all member countries agreed in principle, implementation has been slow.

Today, it is only Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda where travel between the three is possible using an identity card. They even have a single tourism visa regime in place. Even though the other members are still holding out, it did not stop those who were ready to proceed as other members play catch-up.

Joining the EAC has seen the removal of many tariff barriers that were causing business headaches. The One Stop Border Posts has been one of the solutions to reduce piling traffic in cross-border trade. Fewer weigh bridges and police check points have also played a hand in speeding cargo through the corridor.

In order to speed up integration projects, the three countries also came up with the Northern Corridor Integration Project (NCIP), which has become the driving force in implementing EAC policies.

Other regional countries have taken notice and now South Sudan is already on board. During the last summit last year, Burundi attended as an ex-official member while Tanzania and Ethiopia had observer status.

Could we be seeing the revival of the integration spirit that had seemed to have lost steam along the way?

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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