Instead of seeking protectionism, Rwandans should open up and compete at the regional level as the most feasible way of assuring sustainable economic development and wealth creation.
This was pointed out by Rwanda’s members in the Arusha-based East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), during a news conference held in Kigali.
During the conference, members of EALA Rwanda Chapter took journalists through their three-week countrywide sensitisation tour largely aimed at highlighting the gains of the bloc’s integration agenda.
According to MP Dr James Ndahiro, Rwandans cannot afford to sit back and wait for the benefits of the integration agenda from the East African Community (EAC) to come to their doorsteps.
Regional governments, he said, will provide a conducive environment and hold back restrictions but it is up to the citizens to take advantage.
Ndahiro added: “Benefits are there. Challenges are there. But the alternative is not to sit back and say we cannot do anything or that we should protect our own. What would you be protecting, and for how long? The whole world is moving towards a certain direction, and instead of protectionism, we should compete.”
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between countries through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to permit fair competition between imports and goods and services.
According to Ndahiro, who is also an economist, “everyone is saying that” all EAC partner states should reduce their import costs.
“You find that 30 per cent of our GDP is spent on imports. Why can’t we, as EAC, try and substitute those imports by manufacturing. We are seated on Chinese chairs but we need a Rwandan with expertise to go into a venture or partnership with people with more expertise and resources but bring the processing plant here to produce similarly good chairs.”
From April 4 to April 22, Rwanda’s nine EALA representatives will interact with Rwandans and sensitise them on the integration agenda; enhance mutual relations and sustainable networking between the Assembly and Rwandans; and explain the role of the regional parliament.
All EALA members are conducting the sensitisation exercise, concurrently, in their respective countries.
The chairperson of EALA Rwanda Chapter, MP Patricia Hajabakiga, told journalists their three-week sensitization activities will be conducted in form of: presentations and questions and answers with media houses; public addresses at institutions of learning; courtesy calls to opinion leaders and engagements with the national Parliament’s lawmakers, the private sector and the civil society.