30 July 2014

East Africa: New EAC Affairs Minister Looks to Help Fast-Track Integration Projects

Regional integration projects need to be fast- tracked to benefit East African citizens, the new minister for East African Community affairs has said.

Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza was speaking during yesterday's handover ceremony at the ministry's headquarters Kimihurura.

She called for stronger cooperation between the line ministries in the participating countries and other stakeholders to ensure faster implementation of the agreed decisions.

The former Rwanda Development Board chief executive observed that regional integration was an important vehicle toward the achievement of Rwanda's growth agenda.

She congratulated her predecessor, Jacqueline Muhongayire, whom she said had done a good job for the one year she had led the ministry, and asked her to continue promoting the EAC integration agenda as her new role as a senator.

Muhongayire said there was need to sustain public sensitisation to increase Rwandans' awareness about the importance of the integration agenda.

While the five-state East African Community (Rwanda was admitted to the grouping in 2007) has struggled to deliver on its integration agenda, a one-year old tripartite arrangement involving Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya has delivered unprecedented returns for the peoples of the three partner states.

They include use of national IDs by citizens to travel to any of the three countries, a single tourist visa which seeks to boost tourism among the participating countries, and a single customs territory which has significantly cut delays in the movement of goods from Mombasa port in Kenya to Kigali.

The other two partner states, Burundi and Tanzania, were apparently initially opposed to the so-called Northern Corridor Integration Projects, but have sent delegations to some of the recent tripartite meetings, with South Sudan also keen on fully participating in the Northern Corridor projects.

Some of the planned projects under this initiative include construction of a railway line from Mombasa to Kigali, an oil refinery arrangement, energy, defence and security cooperation, as well as air space management, among others.

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