Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation (PSF) has challenged regional legislators to increase their advocacy for policies designated to eliminate trade barriers, which continue to undermine regional integration.
Officials from the umbrella of Rwandan business community were yesterday meeting members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) who are undertaking an outreach programme in partner states.
In Rwanda, the lawmakers will also engage people with disabilities, the national youth council and the country’s parliament on the challenges and opportunities associated with the integration process.
Members of the East African Legislative Assembly take notes during their meeting with PSF officials yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.
Stephen Ruzibiza, the Chief Executive Officer of PSF, said that the failure to harmonise some laws was undermining cross border trade.
Despite the presence of the common market – which ideally should allow for free movement of goods and services – Ruzibiza says, some products from Rwanda are denied entry into some member states.
“We need harmonisation of regulations and standards to avoid double certification of goods and services,” he said.”
Ruzibiza also said that major infrastructure projects in energy and transport, among other sectors, are largely executed by foreign firms, which in turn employ more people from outside the region.
“Having local content and involvement of private sectors in big projects could strengthen the capacity of local businesses,” he said.
Other barriers to trade for Rwandan business operators, he said, include cross-border passenger buses that have strict speed governors compared to the rest of the region, which makes them uncompetitive.
Fred Seka, the Chairman of Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association, said that their employees still struggle to secure work permits to operate in Tanzania.
“For instance, I have applied for the permit but it has taken long. The issue is common because Tanzanian laws are very strict yet protocols are there to harmonise things. Customs systems also need to be harmonised. There is also need for EAC insurance policy for vehicles instead of applying COMESA insurance policy,” he said.
He, however , said that despite the challenges that are still outstanding, the cost of clearing and transporting cargos from Mombasa and Dar es Salam ports to Rwanda has drastically reduced thanks to integration process and systems to ease doing cross-border trading in East African Community.
The cost of shipping cargo from either ports to Kigali reduced by more than a half from $7,000 to $3,000 while the time it takes to transport the cargo dropped from 21 days to three days.
EALA MP Oda Gasinzigwa said they had noted all the concerns raised by the business community and pledged advocate for changes in regional legislations.
“We still have issues whereby EALA enacts laws but they are not ratified by partner states. EALA laws should overide national laws and that is why they should ratify them. If some do not ratify, businesses can be affected as there is no harmonisation,” she said.