Rwanda and Regional Integration
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st December, 2015
As a small landlocked country in the heart of Africa, Rwanda would have limited economic possibilities if it tried to go it alone. But by cooperating more closely with some of its neighbours it can gain many benefits. A degree of regional integration — without undermining national sovereignty — is accordingly being promoted through the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP), which held its latest Summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, just over a week ago. The NCIP groups Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, and as of this Summit Ethiopia as well. As the name suggests, the initiative is project-focussed, in particular promoting the development of railways in the sub-region and in improving both the road network and the efficiency of the port of Mombasa in Kenya, on which the land-locked members — in other words, all of the countries except Kenya — depend for many of their exports and imports. Tanzania is currently only an observer, but logically it would make sense if it joined NCIP too and integrated the port of Dar Es-Salaam into overall planning.
Regional integration has had something of a chequered career in East Africa, notably the East African Community that brought together Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda but failed to live up to its expectations. By being project-focussed the NCIP probably has more chance of success and it confirms a trend towards regional integration that is happening all round the world as a by-product of globalisation. The European Union is, of course, by far the most advanced example of regional integration, as well as being the most ambitious, having political as well as economic dimensions and grouping no fewer than 28 countries. Not everything is running smoothly in the EU, but it is too important to fail in a world where new economic giants are rising. Africa is beginning to understand that as well, and although the continent-wide African Union is provably over-ambitious as a model of integration for the foreseeable future, smaller sub-regional groups such as the NCIP are feasible and promising.