As Rwanda prepares to join the Commonwealth, it becomes of great necessity to try and understand what role international organisations can play in fostering development at the national and regional levels.
Rwanda has just recently joined the East African community (EAC) and is now set to join the Commonwealth, an organisation that hitherto has been a representation of countries that were formerly colonised by the United Kingdom.
It is only Mozambique which joined almost twelve years ago that has no historical connections with the United Kingdom. If Rwanda is admitted as it hopes to during this week CHOGM in Kampala Uganda, then it will be the second country to belong to the world wide group.
A Commonwealth team led by former Jamaican Prime minister, Percival Patterson was designated to consider the Rwandan application late last year. Other countries that have been said to be interested in joining the commonwealth are Algeria, Yemen, Sudan, Israel and the former Palestinian territories.
So, as these events unfold, one may be tempted to ask what is there to gain from belonging and being members of such organizations. Speaking about Rwanda’s application to join the Commonwealth, the Minister of state for regional cooperation Rosemary Museminari has this to say:
“The reason we applied to join is because our country has strong links to the Common wealth. Once we join we would share with others several things like infrastructure and trade because countries join forces as a team. Of course we would be very happy to join the Commonwealth. We are waiting hoping we will be admitted”.
This in essence captures the importance of a country joining international organizations such as the Common Wealth and others. However, it is equally important with hindsight to take a look at the position and the benefits developing countries like Rwanda and the rest of Africa have benefited from belonging to international organizations especially trading blocks.
It is well known that developing countries always play second fiddle roles when it comes to international trade which is a major component and basis for universal development. One remembers the way trade talks between developing African countries and developed countries mostly in the west collapsed in Cancun Mexico in 2003. At that time, African countries stood firm and called the bluff of the developed world.
The key demand of African countries was that there should be reforms in agricultural trade that would lead to the removal of subsidies in industrial countries and provide greater access to global markets. Rather than accept the demands of African nations, the developed countries saw it fit that the talks collapsed.
So, Rwanda as a developing country needs to join key international groupings in order to advance its international trade position. By dealing with the many members that are within the British Commonwealth, Rwanda will be gaining a better trade position which is of paramount importance. The developing countries that belong within the Commonwealth should work towards transforming the bloc into one that puts trade top on its treasons for existence.
It may have emerged as a reminder or representation of British imperialism but can now he harnessed for the benefit of all its members especially the developing countries like Rwanda. This is so because of the fact that the Commonwealth countries represent more than forty percent of the World Trade Organization.
The grouping can also be a big solidarity bloc when it comes to international trade negotiations despite the different development levels that may be inherent among its members.
So, the out most importance is that developing countries like Rwanda and the rest of Africa can gain most from the Commonwealth and other international organizations by using them as a mechanism for the promoting free trade. It has been argued that poor countries can only develop by trade. The approach of availing aid to African countries has not brought about the much needed development as expected so far.
It is only by free trade that we in Africa can get on to the roadmap towards development. Restrictions and issues like subsidies that farmers in the developed world get in order to out compete the developing countries of the world should be an issue to deal with by international organizations such as the Commonwealth.
Free trade; as advocated for by David Ricardo in his analysis comparative advantage shows that it can benefit all parties as long as they have different costs of production. Rwanda has positioned itself as the ICT hub on the African continent. Rwanda’s joining the Commonwealth means many countries in the bloc mainly in Africa will benefit from her comparative advantage in the area of Information Communication Technology (ICT) that she has worked her to attain.