Being landlocked country

Japanese investors meet with Rwandan government officials to explore trade and investment opportunities. Courtesy RDB.

During last week’s Rwanda-Japan Business Forum which was held in Tokyo, Japan, President Paul Kagame allayed investor concerns on Rwanda being landlocked.

The President assured Japanese business community about the availability of opportunities through which they can apply knowledge and innovation to overcome landlocked-related challenges.

“We can turn these seemingly huge challenges into an opportunity and therefore through doing business, innovation and technologies we will be able to address all that,” he said. 

He further noted that; “I want to assure you that the Government of Rwanda will continue to do our best, to provide a conducive and supportive environment for successful ventures.”

In recent years, the Government undertook major steps to improve the investment climate as well as doing business as one of the major ways to build investor confidence in respect of various challenges.

In order to make the investment climate conducive, the investment law was revised to keep pace with national, regional and global trends.

Although the investment law is not necessarily the most important for business to thrive, it’s a major tool to guide through doing business.

The laws also play a key role in turning the investment climate around or less attractive.

In particular, investment law spells out the requirements for investment in the country’s economy.

It also articulates the position of the country with respect to national investment and policy package.

Such are focal points for the expression of authorities’ expectations from, and treatment of, investors.

The current investment law contains focal areas of investment, rights of investors, and facilitations thereof.

This shows the government’s commitment to welcoming diverse domestic and foreign investments.

In order to make the investment climate more attractive, Rwanda has revitalised the macroeconomic policy framework such as trade policy, taxation, foreign exchange markets, land, labour as well as the political atmosphere and good governance.

Other areas that have been revitalised include proper management of the regulatory process related to commercial activities, legal and judicial frameworks and their ability to properly settle disputes (e.g. use of arbitration or ordinary courts of laws), enforcement of contracts, quality of both the physical infrastructure–power, transportation, well-functioning financial institutions and civil society organisations.

In terms of Doing Business, the Government has significantly bolstered regulations that affect domestic small and medium-size enterprises, operating in the largest business city of an economy, such as registering a company, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity and water, registering property, getting loans, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, executing judicial decisions, and resolving insolvency matters.

The ultimate purpose of Doing Business is to embrace legal and regulatory frameworks for doing business that protect consumers, shareholders and the public without overburdening companies, hence creating a conducive environment where the private sector can thrive.

Turning to being a landlocked State, generally known as a State which has no sea-coast, it naturally has some limitations on the overall socio-economic development efforts of the country.

Nonetheless, landlocked states have the right of access to the territorial waters under international law.

In this regard, it is quite compelling to look into Article 125 of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which plainly articulates the right of access to and from the sea and freedom of transit of land-locked states.

However, a land-locked state, like Rwanda, gets access to the sea through the territory of their neighbouring states known as transit states.

As such, landlocked states pass persons, baggage, goods, and other freights through the land of transit states.

For instance, Kenya and Tanzania are transit states for Rwanda and Uganda. So, Rwanda enjoys access to the sea via its transit neighbours or coastal states.

To ensure the enjoyment of preceding rights, and avoid transit problems, it requires close cooperation and collaboration between with transit neighbours.

In light of maritime zones, a land-locked is conferred with several rights to exercise, such as ‘Territorial Sea, Exclusive Economic Zone, the High Seas, and the Seabed’.

With respect to close cooperation and collaboration between with transit neighbours, Rwanda, like Uganda, belongs to the East African Community (EAC).

A regional integration bloc comprises of six partner States: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

So doing business shouldn’t be viewed only in a single country, but in a wider regional market.

That being the major importance of belonging to regional arrangements. In fact, regional integration is the best approach for development and growth of the country’s economy.

Once regional integration is bolstered, automatically free movement of people as well as free trade will thrive.

Although the rights of a landlocked State is contingent upon the agreement between the land-locked and costal states, the Convention on the law of the Sea requires transit/costal states to refrain from creating constraints for land-locked states.

In a nutshell, the practical implementation of land-locked states’ rights depends on the concerned states’ relations, agreements, and/or the political will of transit states.

Both comity of nations and international law require states to avoid the legal, administrative and political adjustments that can hinder the land-locked states’ access rights under the guise of legitimate interest.

The writer is a law expert