The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: Integration Key in Fuelling Africa's Growth


As history has shown, no country can be an island in the metaphorical sense, though literally, Seychelles and Mauritius, to name but a few, are members of the club.

Civilisations were fuelled and oiled by external exchanges, be it goods or knowledge. Empires and political influence were built through trade, so there is no reason why developing countries cannot take the same route.

Rwanda realised long ago that its future lay in opening up, encouraging cross-border and international trade and removing trade barriers that were hindering movement of goods and people.

It is in that spirit that it eased visa restrictions for African citizens who now get their visas at entry points. The country, in partnership with Kenya and Uganda, went a step further by recognising national identity, student and even voters' cards as valid travel documents, effective January 1, 2014.

Rwanda's opening up to African countries has already paid dividends, and now Kenya has also announced similar pro-African visa policies, thereby signalling that the integration ball has started rolling.

Fast tracking the regional infrastructure projects currently in the pipeline will do to this region what merchants' ships did to ancient empires, exploring new markets and exchanging knowhow.

The East African Community member states should lead the way in showcasing to other African nations the real meaning of integration, its benefits to the population and debunk the current myth that Africa cannot pull itself out of the poverty and dependence mode.

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