KIGALI - President Paul Kagame has urged Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) to make all efforts to resolve outstanding challenges hampering and slowing down the regional integration process.
The President made the call in his speech while opening the 4th meeting of the 4th session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) which kicked off at the Parliamentary buildings, yesterday.
The Head of State cited Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) as a major threat to doing business in the region, stating that the failure to reign in NTBs, all together increased the costs of doing business and discouraged investors.
The President noted that limited awareness of the Common Market Protocol, by regional and international investors, further presented challenges to the integration process and impeded the ability to ensure maximization of investments in the region.
“Inadequate infrastructure and high non-tariff barriers in our region continue to lead to a high cost of doing business,” Kagame said.
“The limited awareness of the common market protocol by regional and international investors means that they have not taken full advantage of it and as a result, the potential of investment is not maximised,”
The President noted that despite major progress in the integration process and development in individual states, major challenges still remain, which the partner states need to tackle if they are to reap the benefits of integration.
“We must also recognise that there are still a number of challenges that slow down the process and, therefore, require our urgent and concerted attention,” Kagame said
“First among these is our limited financial capacity which hampers the development of a wider range of activities and services that are the basis of greater integration,” he added.
Kagame went on to cite examples of affected projects including transport infrastructure linkages, ICT, energy and financial services, human resources, rural sector development, as well as cross-border trade and investment.
President Kagame also said that the lack of integrated framework for Public-Private-Partnerships is hampering the region’s ability to smoothly integrate.
“Of equal concern is the lack of an integrated EAC Strategy Framework for Public-Private-Partnerships investment in infrastructure and utilities that is crucial to the economic development of the region,” he noted
The President called for the strengthening of the EAC organs to enable the speedy implementation of projects and programmes within the timeframe, noting that, delay in the realisation of planned programmes and projects created a ripple effect, leading to further delays of others.
President Kagame urged the EAC to fast track infrastructure development, stating that it was time for the East African Road Map Project and the East African Railway Project to be taken to the next level.
In his remarks, the Speaker of EALA, Abdirahin Abdi hailed Rwanda for the progress it has made in socio-economic development, noting that it was a result of sound leadership.
“The giant economic, social and political strides this country has made in the last 16 years after the genocide cannot be gainsaid,”
“Rwanda is now regarded as one of the safest and indeed, most productive and competitive countries in Africa to do business with,” Abdi said
He noted that the ever-changing skyline of Kigali City is evidence of a booming construction industry and is reminder that there is a Master plan being adhered to.
Abdi pointed out that during the field visits throughout this country, EALA MPs noticed the efforts by Rwandan people to move away from poverty and embrace modernisation.
He said the country had put in place sound policies to ensure poverty reduction. Hon Abdi hailed the government for embarking on the ambitious campaign to eradicate the thatched houses (Nyakatsi).
“Your Excellency, we were privileged to have joined you in the construction of homes during the monthly community work (Umuganda) over the weekend in Kanyinya Sector,”
“The success of this important programme will propel Rwanda forward thus making it, probably the only country in Africa without grass-thatched housing that is often, if not always, associated with poverty and generally, poor hygiene”, he said.
In the course of the next two weeks, the Assembly shall discuss various issues including the 2nd and 3rd readings of the EAC Elections Bill, the EAC Service Commission Bill and the Inter-University Council of East Africa (Amendment) Bill.
EALA is also expected to debate and adopt Committees reports, as well as hold interactive sessions with the Members of both Houses of the Rwandan Legislature.
The Assembly shall also participate in activities marking the commemoration of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.