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EAC Customs Union Officially Launched in Rwanda & Burundi





EAC Headquarters, Arusha, 6 July 2009: The East African Community Customs Union was today officially launched in the two new Partner States of Burundi and Rwanda. In Burundi, the official launch ceremony was presided over by the 2nd Deputy President, His Excellency Gabriel Ntisezerana and was held at the Bujumbura Port. In Kigali, the Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Right Honourable Bernard Makuza, presided over the ceremony held at the Kigali Serena Hotel.


In Burundi, the ceremony was attended by Honourable Ministers led by the Minister of EAC Affairs, Hon. Hafsa Mossi, the President of Burundi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Art, Mr. Hermenegilde Ndikumasabo, Members of the East African Legislative Assembly, the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Mr. Alloys Mutabingwa, members of the diplomatic corps, senior officials from the EAC Secretariat, as well as the Private Sector.


In Rwanda, the occasion was also graced by Rwanda’s Minister for East African Community and Chairperson of EAC Council of Ministers, Honourable Monique Mukaruliza, the East African Community Director General for Customs and Trade, Mr Peter Kiguta (representing the Secretary General, Ambassador Juma Mwapachu), the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Mr Jean Claude Nsengiyumva, the Commissioner General of the Rwanda Revenue Authority, Mary Baine, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Foundation (Rwanda), Mr Emmanuel Hategeka, members of the national and regional Parliaments (East African Legislative Assembly), senior officials from the EAC, diplomats and members of the business community.


The 2nd Deputy President of the Republic of Burundi, His Excellency Gabriel Ntisezerana reiterated the government’s support to all the processes that will result in Burundi reaping benefits from the Customs Union. He recognized the critical role that will be played by the private sector in driving the Customs Union and assured them of Government role to create the necessary conducive environment for the business to flourish and the country’s economy to grow.


In Rwanda, the Ri Honourable Makuza hailed  Rwanda and Burundi’s joining the Customs Union as a landmark achievement for the region, while pledging the government’s support to ensuring the success of the Union.


“The expansion of the Customs Union is a landmark achievement which brings a sense of pride to our integration efforts and the successes that have been achieved so far have resulted in significant respect and admiration for our region,” he said, adding, “contrary to belief that the Customs Union would negatively affect the economies of the Partner States in terms of revenue erosion and competitiveness, major benefits have accrued to the region in terms of increased trade and customs revenue. It is on this strength that Rwanda confidently embraces the Customs Union without reservation”.


In a statement read for him simultaneously at the different venues (by Mr. Alloys Mutanbigwa in Bujumbura and Mr Peter Kiguta in Kigali), the Secretary General of the East African Community said “this day marks a further stride in the integration journey of transforming EAC into a single and strong economic and ultimately political entity. The integration of EAC envisages a balanced and sustainable development in order to raise the standard of living of its people. He said the economic integration is the heart of the EAC integration process that sets the momentum for deeper and widened engagement of the Partner States. Adding that “the commencement of implementation of Customs Union in Rwanda and Burundi is therefore a turning point for which our region attaches immeasurable importance”.


The EAC Secretary General noted that the Customs Union had spurred intra-EAC trade since its inauguration in 2005, which, he said, would be enhanced with Rwanda and Burundi joining.


“Since its implementation in 2005, the EAC Customs Union has exhibited tangible and positive outcomes with significant growth in trade among the Partner States. From 2004 to date the total growth of intra-EAC trade flows is over 40%. The joining of Rwanda and Burundi further enlarges the market size with a population of 120 million people and a combined GDP of around US$60 billion,” the Secretary General said.


The Commissioner General of the Rwanda Revenue Authority expressed Rwanda’s readiness for the Customs Union, underscored by among others, the bold step it has taken in agreeing to immediately dismantle the internal tariff to zero while the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Foundation (Rwanda), Mr Emmanuel Hategeka urged the Rwandan business community to take advantage of what he described as the window of opportunity resulting from the launch of the Customs Union, particularly the zero tax on importation of heavy trucks – which shall initially be open for one year only. The Customs Union implementation in the republics of Rwanda and Burundi commenced 1 July 2009.


Directorate of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs

Arusha, Tanzania