The Kenyan Minister for East African affairs Amason Kingi, has described Rwanda as an investment hub and called on the Kenyan business community to invest heavily in the country.
Kingi, who described Kenya- Rwanda relations as excellent, added that the two countries were now targeting a strong and integrated East Africa Community (EAC) by taking similar positions in various EAC negotiations like the Common Market negotiations.
“Rwanda is the place to be for the Kenyan business community. I’ve been to Rwanda, the investment climate there will enable them make investments that will guarantee their returns,” Kingi recently told The New Times in Arusha.
Currently, over three thousand Kenyans are living and working in Rwanda following the announcement by the Rwandan Government, removing work permits on professionals from the EAC.
A reasonable percentage of the Common Market negotiations and the timeframe for concluding and signing the EAC Common Market Protocol has been extended to the end of April this year while implementation is slated for 2010.
On infrastructural development, Kingi was upbeat that once the Athi River–Namanga¬–Arusha road is complete; doing business will be much easier for a big number of regional traders.
For Uganda’s Minister for East African affairs Eriya Kategaya, infrastructural development will lead to a bigger and unified market that will reduce the current cost of doing business in East Africa. However, Kategaya said that that the EAC has and still is meeting low levels of integration from Partner States.
“The problem is that we are still cocooned in our national states. We have not yet created a critical mass especially in our politicians and business people to know that EAC integration is the way forward. There should be a campaign on civic education, political talks, to show that integration is important,” he said.
To enhance integration among members, EAC countries established a Customs Union in 2005 and are working towards the establishment of a Common Market by 2010, subsequently a Monetary Union by 2012 and ultimately a Political Federation of the East African States.
Newly appointed Burundian Minister for East African affairs, Hafsa Mossi, said that given her country’s turbulent history, the country had registered a certain level of the EAC integration.
“There are still many challenges but we trying hard to get there and as far as Burundi is concerned, the biggest progress has been to sensitize our people on the benefits the country will get in joining the community,” Mossi said.
Rwanda last year concluded its nationwide consultations and sensitization on the fast tracking and integration process of the EAC.
The EAC with a population of more than 120 million people, is the regional intergovernmental organization of countries; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.