From the time Rwanda and Burundi were admitted to the E.A community, there has been a nagging question as to what these sister countries would contribute to the community. Diminutive descriptions such as “land locked” , “small“ or “ poor” have always been synonymous with the said countries and humbly accepted by its respective citizens.
It is true that they are land locked countries and far from the main ports of Mombasa and Dar-as-Salaam, but they ceased to be land – locked from the day they joined the East African community. The two countries now belong to the same economic block (East Africa). This therefore renders the term “land locked” inappropriate at this particular moment. The term “small” too should not be applicable because we know many small countries (in size) that have been able to accomplish great tasks.
In order to appreciate the overdue inclusion of both Rwanda and Burundi to EAC, there are several aspects that are common in both countries but totally absent in the older member states. First and foremost, it is important to note that Rwanda and Burundi are the only countries that form the water table which is responsible for Africa’s biggest mass of water such as Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, to mention just a few.
Furthermore, Rwanda’s volcanic range forms one of the richest biodiversity mass in Africa. This is evidenced by the high population growth rate in both countries, despite their small sizes. It is therefore not surprising that the mountain Gorillas, the only type of apes remaining on this entire planet, found their best habitat in Rwanda.
Agriculturally, the landscape provides the most ideal opportunity for farming. A leaf should be borrowed from the nearby Kigezi District (less than 100 Km from Kigali) which shares the same biodiversity with Rwanda and Burundi and equally densely populated. Downstream the Akagera and particularly in Bugesera where the river has flooded and changed course several times over the last one thousand years, enormous layers of alluvium abound and await exploitation, come rain or shine.
Bugesera alone accounts for five lakes that other big exporters of flowers, fruits and vegetables like Kenya and Zimbabwe do not have. Rwandans are well known to be hard working. If this agricultural potential is properly exploited, Bugesera alone is capable of satisfying the needs of about 30,000,000 people in fruits and vegetables.
Due to both countries’ high altitude, there exist many tourist attractions such as striking hills, mountains and many lakes, not to mention the meanderings of its great rivers whose beauty are unequalled on the entire continent.
This adds value and provides a variety to the otherwise monotonous flat savannah grasslands that is common to other East African National Parks. Lake Mugesera, though very small and just 40 Km from Kigali, provides the most stunning beauty of all the African lakes. And to complement it, is Lake Muhazi at about the same distance from Kigali. In the tourism industry, the added value to the rest of East Africa is the extension of the tourist itineraries that will become more attractive due to these features that will contribute a new variety and scenery, a fact that will benefit all member states.
The prevailing political stability and especially good governance in Rwanda should serve as a major catalyst to tap these resources.
Commercial wise, Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan businessmen now have a direct access to Democratic Republic of Congo’s major trading towns such as Goma and Bukavu which largely depend on both ports of Mombasa and Dar as Salaam.
The old East African states therefore, will access the big markets in the Congo -Kinshasa through the new member states without any difficulties.
Unless these resources prove to be unexplainable beyond any reasonable doubt, the countries’ physical locations and their distances from coastal ports should be irrelevant.