Over the past five years, Rwanda increased its exports of products to the East African Community partner states while attracting investors from the region.
Official figures from the National Bank of Rwanda indicate that the country's trade with other EAC partner states has been increasing annually.
From January to August this year, the country's exports within EAC increased to $75.7 million from $50.7 million, during the same period last year.
Rwanda's main exports to EAC include tea, coffee, hides and skins, vegetables and alcoholic beverages.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, attributes the increase in intra-regional trade to the implementation of the EAC common market protocol, which has facilitated free movement of goods and services across the region.
"We are seeing our exports to EAC growing fast and NTBs are being removed. We expect a sustained high growth of our exports in EAC in the next decade," he responded to our enquiries through his twitter account.
Figures from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) also show that over 60 regional companies have invested in the country over the last 10 years.
Some of the regional companies that have set up shop locally include Kenya's Nakumatt Supermarket, Equity Bank, Nation Holdings, Mt Kenya University, Tourism Promotion Services, the proprietors of Serena Group of Hotels as well as Tanzania's Oil Com and Bakheresa Grain Milling Ltd.
Others are Kenya Commercial Bank, Fina Bank, East African Growers Limited, and I&M Bank, which recently acquired 80 percent shares from Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR).
These companies have created employment opportunities for locals, enhanced the service sector through competitiveness and brought in new technologies.
Besides job creation opportunities, the companies have helped in generating and increasing domestic revenues as well as new knowledge and skills among the nationals.
Similarly, statistics released by RDB this month paint a rosy picture with cross-border export receipts growing by 64.2 per cent, to $59.4 million during the first seven months of the year, up from $36.22 million at the same period last year.
The Minister of East African Community Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, discloses that an expert has been hired to conduct a survey to determine the number of Rwandans who have invested in other regional member countries.
Though there are no statistics to show the number of local investors in the region, more efforts are concentrated in mobilising local companies to penetrate the regional market.
"This is done in various ways such as participation in regional trade fairs and organisation of export meetings within EAC. Rwandan trade fairs have so far been held in Kenya, Uganda and another one is planned for Burundi in February next year," says Vivian Kayitesi, the head of Investment Promotion at RBD.
The investment department also indicates that EAC accounted for 35 per cent of Rwandan exports during the first six months of 2012, closely followed by Europe at 32 per cent.
Other important Rwandan export destinations include the DR Congo, at 12 per cent, as well as other African countries and China, at nine per cent and seven per cent, respectively.
The figures indicate that the EAC has become the country's largest export destination in reference to the first four months of 2012.
The EAC Affairs minister says that if the rest of the partner states implement the agreed protocols, the country would certainly accrue more benefits.
"The low implementation by other member states is a challenge to Rwanda .The integration agendas are supposed to move progressively but when the citizens are not seeing the tangible benefits, they will be demoralised and it becomes hard to convince them about the significance of the community."
The Country Manager of TradeMark East Africa, John Bosco Kalisa, says though there are some challenges towards the implementation of the protocol, a lot of progress has been realised. He, however, advises the Rwandan Private Sector Federation to facilitate its members to penetrate the regional market.
"We need to see Rwandan traders investing in these countries. I was so excited when I visited Nakumatt Supermarket in Uganda and I found Inyange products there. However, we need more local products in the region," he says.
Rwanda became a full member of the East African Community which originally comprised of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, in 2007.
East African Legislation Assembly member, Christophe Bazivamo, says government in partnership with other responsible trade agencies should now embark on highlighting opportunities in other partner states to enable Rwandans to explore them
Meanwhile, five years on, while some see benefits, other Rwandans say they are yet to see the benefits accruing from the Community.
"We thought that once Rwanda joined the EAC, the prices of goods and services would drop. However, they are increasing by the day. Personally, I would say that I have not benefited. I used to buy a kilogramme of sugar for Rwf500 before Rwanda joined the EAC, but it now goes for Rwf900," Jean Claude Hamenyimana, a commercial motorcyclist in Nyamirambo suburb told The New Times in an interview.
He confides that in the past, he opted to buy imported rice from Tanzania for Rwf450 per kilogramme which now costs Rwf900 saying this has put a strain on the lives of many low income earners.
A stationery trader based in Kimironko suburb of Kigali, Vedaste Ntagwabira, who is also a student at Mount Kenya University, observes that it is important for member countries to implement the agreed protocols.