Participants attending a caucus on the role of EAC integration in achieving Vision 2020, in Kigali, over the weekend, observed that Rwanda needs to continue strengthening institutions and implementing regional protocols for the country to benefit more from the integration.
The gathering, organised by EAC ministry, attracted various academics from local universities, members of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), government officials and other participants from civil society organisations.
During the debate, the discussants recognised Rwanda as a regional leader in the implementation of the regional protocols saying that there was need for other member states to emulate Kigali for the benefit of all citizens.
Mark Priestley, the country director, Trade Mark East Africa, told The New Times that the country had put in place good institutions that have facilitated the implementation of the protocols.
He advised government to embark on reinforcing them to sustain the gains made.
“Lack of political will to strengthen the institutions will continue affecting the regional integration. Rwanda is spearheading the implementation of the protocols because of good established institutions,” he said.
On whether Rwanda is likely to lose after joining the bloc, Priestley observed that the country stands to gain more mainly because it is landlocked.
“It’s true there will always be a loser and a winner, but Rwanda, as a landlocked country that, has political commitment, I think, stands to benefit more,” he said.
He called for the amplification of the competitiveness in trade, advising that if a container comes from Mombasa to Kigali, it must return when it’s full with local products to avoid imbalances between imports and export.
Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the National University of Rwanda, said in an interview that full integration cannot be achieved unless all countries share experiences on their national policies.
“Any economic integration needs a driving force. France and Germany are driving the European Union. Therefore, we see Rwanda becoming one of the drivers of EAC. Its implementation speed will make it achieve more. Hence, there is need for other members to do the same,” he underscored.
Some of the protocols that the country has implemented include free movement of labour, people and services, elimination of non tariff barriers, and zero tolerance to corruption.
Some member states are still hesitant to apply the protocols, a situation experts believe could undermine the integration process.
On why some member countries were reluctant to implement them, Monique Mukaruliza, the Minister for EAC, pointed out that implementation of the protocols mainly requires political commitment.
She said that her ministry embarked on a countrywide drive to sensitise nationals about the benefits of integration, which she said would help them widen their thinking, by going beyond the national borders.
In an interview, Valerie Nyirahabineza, a Rwandan member of the East African Legislative Assembly, pointed out that the regional lawmakers conducted a survey in all member states and established that Rwanda had implemented the agreed protocols.
Nyirahabineza, however, noted that though other member states were yet to fully implement them, she was optimistic that integration would ultimately be achieved.