• Rwanda seeks to become Regional service hub
Stakeholders in Rwanda’s service sector convened on Monday to come up with views and recommendations to be forwarded to the High Level Task Force in the ongoing East African Common Market negotiations.
The one-day validation workshop held at Kigali Serena Hotel which brought together service providers from the public and private sectors was aimed at sensitising people in the service sector, while consulting them on their views with regards to the liberalisation of the sector to allow free movement of services in East African bloc.
According to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for East African Community (EAC) affairs, Charles Gasana, the workshop was organised to allow the views of the people providing services in the country, over a comprehensive study on the sector in Rwanda carried out by the Ministry, in order to reach a final stand to be later presented to the EAC Secretariat by June 2009.
He said that this stage is necessary and is part of the negotiation process to involve all the major players including the service sector as the EAC moves towards establishing a Common Market expected to resume in 2010.
According to the study conducted by consultants, Rwanda’s growing service sector is still relatively small compared to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and it is governed by the most flexible laws in the region with limited restrictions, allowing foreign service providers to operate in the country with ease.
The study also found out that Rwanda has the most liberal service sector among EAC member states and has already revised several laws to allow foreign companies to import their services into the country without any difficulties which leaves other member states with more work to do as the bloc moves into the common market.
The workshop organised by MINEAC and the Regional Integration Committee (RIC) was also aimed at studying some of the remaining laws in the service sector likely to become stumbling blocks in the process to create the EAC common market and seek ways to remove them, to allow free movement of services in the five EAC Partner States.
According to Prudence Sebahizi, the Executive Secretary of the RIC and the Chief Negotiator in the talks, Rwanda is on track and there are only a few hurdles which are being studied before the country fully adopts its stand on the Common Market.
In a bid to ensure quality service delivery, Rwanda has already liberalised several areas in the service sector to allow both local and foreign companies to compete favourably as long as several preconditions and standards are met.
Among the areas where Rwanda has relaxed laws of establishment according to the study, includes the banking and financial sector to allow many players and movement of professional labour.
Rwanda has also opened up its investment, tourism, education, ICT and Telecommunications sector to allow foreign players.
Ambassador Joseph Mutaboba who chairs the Regional Integration Committee said that Rwanda, as the current chair of the EAC, is committed to the integration process not only in the EAC but in other regional and continental integration processes such as the COMESA and the African Union. He said that it’s through these processes, if well planned that countries will be able to emerge from poverty and develop.
EAC countries are currently negotiating a common market which will allow free movement of labour, goods, services and persons by 2010 but the talks have been slowed by counter accusations of certain countries in the bloc being reluctant to ease up, in a bid to protect their domestic markets.