HUYE - The Minister of East African Community Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, has urged residents, especially business persons, to take advantage of a wider market provided by the East African economic bloc.
Speaking to local leaders, the business community and members of civil society organisations in Huye district, Mukaruliza warned that the country will not benefit much if business persons continue to work as individuals.
“A foray into the EAC market requires big capital which can only be mobilised if business people pull resources together for investment,” she said.
Mukaruliza called for innovativeness and competitiveness on the part of business people if they are to survive in the now larger EAC market that includes countries like Uganda and Kenya with a much more vibrant private sector; seen as a key component in the integration process.
She cited low capacity of the private sector, lack of skilled personnel, lack of knowledge on the opportunities in the EAC and slow adaptation to change as some of the challenges, on the part of Rwanda, in the EAC integration.
“You need to go out and source for business opportunities, change is coming fast and if you don’t change, it [change] will change you,” she warned.
The Minister revealed that after the EAC common market, the penultimate stage of the EAC integration will be the monetary union – the use of one currency in the EAC - adding that a team of experts has completed a study on how a monetary union will be attained.
“One of the proposals is that people in EAC will be able to use local currencies in all member countries until one currency, expected in 2012, is put in place,” she said.
Participants in the meeting wondered why the common market has not meant reduction in the price of goods imported from within the region.
“Most goods manufactured within the region cost the same or even more than those imported from outside the EAC, we see this as a big contradiction,” Charles Kobuceye, a Sector Executive Secretary wondered.
The Minister explained that the cost of goods has been pushed high by fuel prices despite the reduction on taxes. She, however, criticised unscrupulous traders who continue to rip-off consumers under the pretext of high taxes.
“We need to strengthen consumer associations which are vital in the fight for consumer rights,” she said.
Sylvere Mutenderi, a farmer and business man called on government to make flexible loans available if business persons are to compete in the EAC market.
“Many business people have big business plans but there is no funding, we call upon government to intervene by making available flexible loan facilities to help business people,” he said.