The Government has said it seeks to associate with more regional blocs to entrench its socio-economic ties and widen market.
This follows the readmission of Rwanda to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), a bloc government withdrew from eight years ago.
The government says it it looking at tapping into the potential of the bloc in presenting economic resources and investment attractions to Rwanda, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spearheaded the readmission process, said.
Rwanda was readmitted to the 11 member state regional bloc on Monday during an annual Conference of Heads of State and Government of the organisation in N’djamena, Chad.
The bloc, which is currently headed by Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, welcomed Rwanda back following an application made in April 2013.
Explaining the government’s reckoning in rejoining the bloc, James Ngango, the acting director-general of bilateral cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said following the growing commitment and economic cooperation with a number of ECCAS member states, Rwanda felt it was time to rejoin.
Ngango said taking into account the transformation of the country and ongoing economic reconstruction, it is now possible for Rwanda to belong to multiple regional communities because the country can serve as a link between the eastern and central part of the continent.
He also pointed at the bilateral ties that Rwanda has over the past few years fostered with several ECCAS member countries.
“For example, RwandAir flies to Libreville in Gabon, Brazzaville, Congo, and Douala in Cameroon. We have also established an embassy in Brazzaville recently; these are some of the indicators considered in the reintegration process so that we can tap into the economic resources and investment attractions,” Ngango said.
Explaining Rwanda’s move to exit from the bloc in 2007, Ngango said they wanted to concentrate on East African Community (EAC), which the country had just joined.
This was on advice by the African Union, which urged countries to avoid overlapping memberships in several regional economic communities.
The exit had been preceded by consultations made by a regional community integration taskforce to determine which regional communities the country could quit and those it should remain in.
“Currently, we have achieved the three main steps of integration in the East African Community; the Customs Union, Common Market and we are now working on Monetary Union. It is now possible to belong to both communities,” he said.
Ngango explained that the central African regional bloc will benefit from Rwanda’s expertise in peace and security matters which would come in handy for member states experiencing conflict.
Other winners from the development are traders in the region looking for more markets.
Beyond the primary objective of championing the process of economic cooperation and integration of central African states, the body also promotes development of peace, security and stability in member states.
How Rwandans can benefit
Dr Chika Ezeanya, the director of research at the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics, said to fully reap the benefits, Rwandans and their respective enterprises ought to position themselves appropriately.
Such adjustments are in aspects such as diversification and expansion of the manufacturing base – to boost exports - and acquiring labour skills relevant to the regional markets.
“I am sure that Rwanda, in the process of negotiation, considered specific benefits as per national and development goals,” Dr Ezeanya said.
Trade and Industry minister Francois Kanimba told The New Times that government was preparing facilitation for Rwandan entrepreneurs to penetrate into some of the ECCAS markets such as Congo Brazzaville.
Kanimba said following readmission, government and exporters are upbeat and are making necessary preparation for market entry such as seeking cargo airlines and storage facilities for exporters.
“If you are not a member of ECCAS, you stand missing out on some benefits on duty-free reductions to enter the central African markets,” Kanimba said.
Dr Papias Musafiri, the principal of the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics (CBE), said regional cooperation is always a strong instrument in promotion of economic growth and political stability.
He lauded Rwanda’s move in rejoining the bloc saying that the country stands to benefit from being a member of multiple regional blocks since each block has comparative advantages to the other.
Other than ECCAS, Rwanda is a member of the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries.
Following the readmission of Rwanda, which was one of the founding members in 1983, ECCAS now has eleven members including; Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and Sao Tome & Principe.