Two occasions transpired recently in Kigali. One was the meeting that sought to sensitise Rwandan hoteliers on the need to classify the country’s hospitality facilities under the East African Community standards.
The eventual outcome of this meeting would mean that hotels in Rwanda would be ranked using the same parameter as those in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
It would mean that for the same cost across the region a visitor to the region would get equally the same ambience in Kigali as that of other East African cities.
The other occasion was the celebration to mark the 10 years of the existence of the EAC of which Rwanda and another, Burundi joined almost over two years ago after both countries acceded to the EAC treaty in June 2007.
Both occasions are synonymous with each other with one complimenting the other in a way that the former demonstrates how far the country can go to fully commit herself, to be part of an economic bloc that has a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $60 billion.
Since Rwanda and Burundi officially became full members of the EAC in July the same year there is already a dire need for Rwandans to be fully identified as East Africans.
There is an aura of working hard in preparation to fully integrate to the market within the EAC region.
The recent winning of the Tusker Project Fame – a TV reality show held in Nairobi – by a Rwandan national, sharing stage with other contestants from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania summed it up.
For Rwandans it was not just a show, it was like a statement made clear to the EAC, that culturally they are part of the bloc. Rwandans watched the show from clips recorded and live from Citizen TV, KTN and UBC TV, the former being Kenyan broadcasters and the latter Ugandan.
As Rwanda joined others to celebrate the 10 years of EAC, her membership as a full partner is not accidental.
According to Juma Mwapachu, the EAC Secretary General, Rwanda joining the EAC is a phenomenon rooted on historical, geographical, social-cultural and economic facts.
“The country’s quest dates back to the initial period when EAC was revived. The country’s wish to be a member of EAC can be traced back to the first EAC in the 1970s,” Mwapachu said.
Following the accession of both Rwanda and Burundi to the EAC Treaty in June 2007, the two countries became full members of the community in July 2007. The joining of Rwanda and Burundi further enlarged the market size with a population of 120 million people.
During the negotiations for accession, Rwanda undertook to commence implementation of the EAC Customs Union after two years of their entry to the East African Community.
According to Emmanuel Hategeka, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation (PSF), with effect from July 1, 2009 the EAC Common External Tariff became operative immediately in Rwanda.
”Some of the immediate benefits that are being enjoyed by our business community include the move from a four tier customs tariff bands to a three tier band with five percentage points lower,” Hategeka said.
”The other is the tax abolition for all goods originating from EAC member states, the removal of taxation on transport of the goods whether coming in by road from Mombasa or Dar es Salaam and the removal of fees on heavy trucks transiting across borders,” he added.
Since Rwanda joined the EAC the government in Kigali has tried so much to liberalise the economy and make conducive policies to fit the integration process.
Ever since the government of Rwanda decided to liberalise the economy, the banking industry has attracted financial institutions from the region with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) seemingly consolidating its presence in Kigali with new branches across the country.