Residents of Muhanga and Huye districts in the Southern Province have been urged to fully participate in the EAC integration process by engaging in cross-border trade.
A delegation from the central government last week embarked on a sensitization campaign that saw them travel to both districts to encourage residents to be part of the process.
The exercise, which mostly targeted the business community of these areas focused on sensitizing them about Customs Union and a Common Market, both tools developed as a trade catalyst within the five-nation regional bloc.
Prudence Sebahizi, the Regional Integration Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the sensitization campaign will help Rwandans understand the two protocols.
“The purpose of these programs is to ensure that the Rwandan business community fully understands the reasons why Rwanda needs to participate in the EAC Customs Union and Common Market and the benefits expected,” he said.
Sebahizi headed Rwanda’s taskforce that negotiated on behalf of government during the negotiations by member states of the Common Market Protocol.
According to Pacifique Mugwaneza, an economist in the Ministry of Finance, there is a lot that Rwandans can share, learn and benefit from EAC after the barriers to trade are removed.
“There is therefore need to have Rwandans fully participate in the common market so that we become active members of the community.”
Participants, however, said that many residents are unaware of the activities and benefits from EAC regarding both protocols and urged that more similar discussions should be carried out in order to update the citizens.
“Most of us cannot do business in the community because we lack knowledge on many of its aspects and rely on hearsay, especially on issues of trade,” Hamida Uwimana, an entrepreneur said.
Participants of Huye also complained that the taxes were high and that sometimes they pay double taxes on the products.
However, Sebahizi said that this was not possible and that RRA couldn’t commit such a mistake.
He added that with the Common Market and Customs Union in place, taxes will be reduced drastically and that those importing goods will only be required to pay taxes at the ports of either Mombasa or Dar-es-Salaam.
Mugwaneza revealed that the task force has come up with a specific program aimed at reaching out and educating several categories of Rwandans about the prospects of the EAC community.
He also encouraged district officials to always collaborate with the central government in encouraging residents to embrace various activities of the EAC and own the whole integration process.
The Mayor of Muhanga District, Yvonne Mutakwasuku, urged entrepreneurs in the area to always render better services to their clients and to produce quality goods which she said would help them compete favourably with their counterparts from other EAC countries.