Kigali: EAC integration has an important role to play in achieving Rwanda's Vision 2020, participants at a debate on Friday agreed. Mary Baine, the permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs shared how the country's integration in the EAC has a positive impact and gives momentum to the achievement of its vision. She showed how this will be possible by sharing the linkage between the 6 pillars of Rwanda's vision 2020 and the East African Community's policies and programs.
The first pillar of Rwanda's vision is the promotion of good governance and a capable state characterized by the rule of law, for all citizens without discrimination. This pillar is supported by EAC's article 6 that promotes the principles of good governance, the rule of law, transparency, equal justice and opportunity.
Another good example that was shared is Rwanda's vision of developing human resource. This is done partly through education, and the EAC's education plans are aiming to that by planning the harmonization of education and training curricula in the community, in order to overcome some of the challenges caused by discrepancies and make the whole community's skills competitive in Africa. Some common centers were also created, like the EAC's centers of excellence and the Inter-University Council for East Africa, IUCEA.
The other pillars of the vision are the promotion of private sector led development, infrastructure development, productive high value and market oriented agriculture in seeking to gain food security, and finally regional and international integration. There other areas that Rwanda considers of high priority and the vision cannot be achieved without them and those are science, technology and IT; gender equality and environment protection.
All these priorities can be found in EAC's policies and programs. The implementation of some like infrastructure is already underway and results can be seen.
As Mary Baine pointed out, when the country joined EAC, it was an informed decision. They did not join just because they were neighbors, but they made sure that their policies would be of service to the country and its people. She added that the policies of the country will be stronger if what is already in place is mainstreamed to the EAC's policies. "If you have a strong neighbor, it will increase your own strength," she said. She added that a land-locked country can become an open country when it is using the right policies.
One of the challenges in implementing the EAC's policies, as Monique Mukaruriza the minister for East African Community shared, is that a country's loses some of its sovereignty in the process because when regional agreements are signed, regional laws transcend national laws. One important thing, as she said is to learn from each other and share the best practices of each country with the others.
Mary Baine also pointed this out and highlighted the need to harmonize national laws with regional ones, as "some people want to maintain their own policies but also want to be called East African." She also added that "there is a need to pay attention at a country's specific issues while implementing regional programs. The laws in the east African community should be useful to all countries, serve its people and help them to develop."
Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, dean of the faculty of law at the National university of Rwanda and part of the EAC team looking at the people's response and concerns, addressed some of the fears they encountered, like the fact that every member state of EAC had achieved a lot nationally and were afraid of losing their benefits and advantages.
He shared two principles that can be applied: sublimity, where what has been effectively accomplished at the national level and is considered as best should be replicated on regional level, and subsidiarity where what can be better achieved at national level should be done on that level and the same can be applied for what can be achieved on regional level. "This will ensure that no one loses out or is left out of the process," he concluded.
A representative of European Union who was present, urged them not to repeat EU's mistakes when it comes to monetary union, and introduce a common currency without making sure of the good economic management and stability of each country. They should learn from what is happening currently with the Euro zone. He said that peace and stability should be the EAC's primary objectives. "You can't have economic stability without political stability."
The minister reiterated the purpose of this week and hoped the debate would help them understand what the country stands to gain from the integration and some of the challenges it is facing.
She pointed out that with the country's integration to the East African Community and the common market agreements, the country is now open for competition: products, skills and labor. She said that "you now find people from the EAC doing the work here and investing their money to develop the economies of their home countries."
She encouraged Rwandans to start taking advantage of the opportunities available for them and seeking jobs outside the country so they can help in the development of its economy.