Rwanda joined the East African Community bloc in 2009, creating excitement among citizens, especially the business community. Indeed, the admission into the regional community came with a market of 150 million people and that was worth noticing.
However, it is regrettable that five years later, close to 60 per cent of the population do not understand the significance of regional integration. How will Rwandans tap into the huge potential the EAC market presents them or help make the integration agenda a reality if they don’t fully understand what the integration process is all about?
The EAC presents many opportunities that could help drive Rwanda’s economy. Only last week, it was reported that Rwanda’s exports to EAC increased significantly between January and June this year. Who knows, maybe if more Rwandans understood and partook in this integration process, the country could have performed much better on the exports front.
That’s why stakeholders must work closely with the EAC Secretariat to take the integration activities to the grassroots. That’s the only way Rwandans and other ordinary East Africans, in general, will fully understand integration and how they can maximise its benefits.
Citizens have to fully own the integration process if they are to contribute meaningfully. Let’s take the process to the people across the bloc – from schools and worship centres to the marketplaces and local councils and co-operative societies.
Such mass sensitisation drives should be informative enough for citizens to clearly understand why the EAC integration is good for them and how best they can benefit from it. But should go hand in hand with delivering on the pledges made under the integration framework so as to build confidence and prompt genuine interest at the local level.
The EAC affairs ministry and other concerned actors should, therefore, employ a bottom-up approach to help address the issue.