President Paul Kagame yesterday attended the 8th Extraordinary Session of Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in Libreville, Gabon. This marks the first time Rwanda attends the meeting since its readmission in 2015.
The meeting chaired by President Ali Bongo Odimba of Gabon, was also attended by presidents; Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Faustin-Archange Touadera of Central African Republic. Other member states were represented by their respective delegations.
Rwanda rejoined the 11 member regional bloc in 2015 in an aim to tap into the potential of the body to attract investments and access duty free markets in the Central African region.
The meeting discussed a number of pertinent issues in the region including the rise of terrorism in a section of the bloc as well as active militia groups in DR Congo, Central Africa Republic and Burundi who threaten to disrupt peace and security in the region.
The host and chairperson of the ECCAS community, President Ali Bongo called on member states to continue embracing the spirit of fraternity and partnership to overcome the challenges faced by the Central African region.
The Heads of States and participating delegations also reviewed the elections that took place in 2016 and the issues around them.
The meeting also discussed intra-Africa and cross border trade, as well as maritime and aviation development within the region.
ECCAS is in the process of setting up a free trade area in a bid to increase business among member countries.
Countries have since been requested to submit a list of products that they will export to fellow member states upon the launch of the free trade area.
To fund the establishment and operationalization of the free trade area, the region’s Ministers for Trade and Finance affairs agreed on a special tariff to be imposed on imports by member states for products originating outside the region.
The levy’s proceeds are earmarked as contributions to meet the body’s operating costs as well as compensate potential revenue loss.
50 per cent of the proceeds are to be used for compensation of potential revenue losses resulting from the liberalisation of tariffs within the ECCAS free trade area.
The body fixed a 0.4 cent levy on all imports from outside the region.
However Rwanda has since sought to be exempt from the funding model as the country has committed to use the import levy model in two other cases.
Rwanda is signatory to a similar import levy arrangement of 1.4 per cent under the East African Community with proceeds going to joint infrastructure projects.
Rwanda also committed to another import levy under the African Union, whereby 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports is expected to raise about $1.2 billion every year.
Rwanda was readmitted to the 11-member state bloc last year, a process that saw its completion in August 2016, with the government saying that it would enable the country duty-free access to new markets.
Rwanda was one of the founding members of the bloc that now brings together Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, DR Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and Sao Tome & Principe.