SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
19th August 2004.
Rwanda benefits from integration

By Emmanuel N. Mugarura
WEEKLY OBSERVER

PRESIDENTIAL CHAT: Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, John Kufuor of Ghana, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzavile during the NEPAD summit hosted by Rwanda.

 

When Rwanda first said it would become a key player in NEPAD and other regional integrations, critics laughed off her commitment.

Rwanda would, however, have the last laugh, as the country proved its critics wrong when in February this year, Kigali hosted a very successful New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Summit.

At the invitation of President Paul Kagame, the Ninth Summit of the Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) was held in Kigali.

Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s president and HSGIC chairperson chaired the summit attended by nine African heads of state and governments, finance ministers and a United Nations representative.

In his opening speech, President Kagame said he was grateful to the implementation committee for ensuring that NEPAD becomes a force for Africa’s comprehensive, integrated and sustainable development.

“We in Rwanda are committed to the ideals of NEPAD and we will play our rightful role to ensure that those ideals for the common good of the African people are realised,” Mr Kagame told the summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kigali.

Kagame said that since the earlier Maputo meeting, Rwanda had witnessed an important milestone on the socio-political scene.
Rwandans had in 2003 voted for leaders of their choice through an election, and through a referendum, the people had voted for a new constitution.

“At this juncture in the life of our country, we can confidently join forces with the rest of Africa to tackle the common challenges that we face…” Kagame confidently announced. Such is the commitment of Rwanda to regional integration, and NEPAD in particular, that the government in Kigali has already formed all the necessary bodies, as required by NEPAD.

“We in Rwanda are making a solemn pledge that we will abide by the principles that govern the African Peer Review Mechanism. We are ready to submit ourselves to periodic peer reviews, and to facilitate such reviews,” President Kagame said during the summit.

Rwanda, he added, unreservedly shares the judgement that it is the peer process that will “strengthen our ownership, consolidate our independence and accountability to our own people and to each other.”

The NEPAD initiative comes at a time when the continent faces enormous challenges. However, Kagame believes that the will and resolve to transcend the challenges are greater than ever before.

“What remains is to build on the impetus generated thus far and strengthen the African spirit of solidarity and partnership, the hallmark of NEPAD.”

The Rwandan leader added, “Only then can we begin to address the challenges of peace and security on our continent, democracy, good governance and socio-economic development.”

The Executive Secretary of NEPAD (Rwanda), Mr Charles Gasana, told The Weekly Observer in an interview that Rwanda would be ready for inspection by the time the Africa Governance Forum sits in Kigali in December this year.

“Rwanda will be the first country among the 23 NEPAD countries to be ready for inspection,” Gasana said. Rwanda is leading Africa on the African Peer Review Mechanism. Closer to Rwanda are Mauritius, Ghana and Kenya. Rwanda will be the first country to be peer reviewed as it has already set up all the necessary arrangements for the process to go on uninterrupted.

As the Forum in Kigali recommended, the Rwanda Government has since formed the focal point at the highest level and the NEPAD Secretariat is housed in the State House offices, where the focal point reports directly to the President.

Some countries have formed independent NEPAD ministries; others are at commission level, while other countries have formed departments in ministries.

Rwanda has been moving well on governance issues, and Gasana notes that one of NEPAD’s programmes is democratisation and governance.

“We think it is democracy and governance that enhance development of any kind, that is where peace, security and integration of partner states is addressed,” Gasana said in an interview.

At its inception, NEPAD wanted to address such issues that can bring different states together, but the body insists on democracy as a benchmark for development.

“Infrastructure, agriculture, health and ICT are the main benefits in the arrangement. Other things come along in the process,” Gasana said.

Rwanda is benefiting from two NEPAD programmes already; Comprehensive African Agricultural Programme (CCADP), which is being financed by FAO, and the e-schools programme under the African Development Bank (ADB).

The e-schools programme was commissioned by the African Commission to disseminate computers and ICTs to schools, especially those in the rural areas. The aim of the project is to develop ICT awareness right from the grassroots.

Under CCADP, a study is being done on irrigation, rural roads, agricultural research, environment and soil management. According to Gasana, the ADB and Development Bank for Southern Africa are coming to assess bankable projects in Rwanda for funding.

Rwanda is also a signatory to the Maputo Agreement, which requires member states to put 10 percent of their annual budget into agriculture. Under the programme, CCADP will add its funding to the country’s resources.

Under the NEPAD arrangement, the Rwanda Government will also benefit from the Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy). It is a cable project to be laid between Durban and Djibouti to connect regional member states.

According to Gasana, once this cable link is complete, it will reduce communication costs by 70 percent. “We have already done the digging and are laying cables. Once Uganda gets in, we shall just hook to the line and everything will be easy for us,” Gasana said.

The 200-million dollar project is already underway, led by engineers from Kenya Telecom. US$170 million is for physical installations, while $30 million dollars is set aside for future servicing.

Gasana said Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda should be connected to the cable by the end of 2004. “We shall be able to carry bulk data at ago, e-mail will be faster and cheaper, but above all, we shall cut on general communication costs,” Gasana said.

Rwandatel, the state-owned telephone service provider, represents Rwanda on the cable project. Also under NEPAD, Rwanda is to jointly generate hydro electricity power with Tanzania at Rusumo, on the border between the two countries. This power project will be able to supply hydropower to Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

Rwanda is also to benefit from a new railway line between Kigali and the eastern Tanzania town of Isaka. Gasana said that the rails will be laid by 2005.

The project funded by the ADB is designed to improve transport and help Rwanda access the coast easily. Rwanda currently has no railway network and uses the roads to transport her bulk imports and exports. Once in place, the railway will help in transporting bulk exports such as coffee, tea and timber.

“By next year, the oil pipeline that connects Eldoret to Bujumbura should be in progress. Once Uganda gets, we shall again also be on line to connect,” Gasana said.

Once the pipeline is complete, fuel prices will go down substantially and the roads will be saved greatly, the Rwandan official added.

Gasana observed that Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi spend a lot of money over time to repair roads destroyed by fuel tankers that transport petroleum products from Eldoret to Burundi.

“We shall have got a quicker and convenient way of transporting petroleum products with minimal damage to the infrastructure and reduce the dangers and risks.”


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