President Paul Kagame said significant progress had been made in the five clusters that Rwanda has been co-ordinating under the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects (NCIP) scheme.
The president who was in Nairobi on June 26 for the 14th Summit of NCIP, said governments, businesses and investors were working to implement the programmes in immigration, tourism, trade, labour and services.
“There is always going to be a lot of work to do but this moment provides an opportunity to re-examine what has been done and what we still need to do,” he said.
President Kagame was accompanied by Infrastructure Minister Claver Gatete, Defence Minister James Kabarebe, Director-General of Immigration and Emigration Anaclet Kalibata, and representatives of other ministries.
Mr Kalibata said that while free movement of people was guaranteed among member states, free movement of labour and services had not been achieved yet. Rwanda requested member states to implement these agreements, although no deadline was agreed on.
The biggest achievement in free movement of people is that citizens have been using national identification cards to travel between Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda since 2014.
Partner states also waived work permit fees for citizens. However, certain jobs in member states are restricted to nationals on the basis of promoting local skills.
On tourism, Rwanda oversaw the launch of the East African Tourist Visa in 2014, allowing travellers to visit Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda using a single visa over a 90-day period.
On trade, Rwanda and Uganda implemented one-stop-border posts at Cyanika and Kagitumba borders, significantly easing the movement of trucks and goods.
Rwanda’s docket also involves overseeing the implementation of the Single Customs Territory. Although the SCT has been praised for reducing the cost of imports, Rwanda said exports also need to be cleared more quickly.
A deadline of September 2018 was agreed on for member states to fully roll out export-support mechanisms under the SCT.
Rwanda also noted that inefficiencies at the Mombasa port need to be dealt with to ensure faster clearance and movement of cargo.
The country also spearheaded airspace management in the Northern Corridor. The delegation urged member states to hasten the implementation of liberalised air service agreements that will lead to reduced travel fares for citizens.
Currently, no significant progress has been made on lowering air travel costs in the region.
Protectionism among national carriers is blamed for exorbitant airfares, which have made travel in the region expensive, according to a survey by research firm InterVISTAS.
The survey showed that liberalisation of East Africa’s airspace would contribute $200 million to the bloc’s annual GDP, increase passenger traffic by 46 per cent each year and create 46,000 new jobs.