The New Times Kigali Collins Mwai
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President Paul Kagame, yesterday, attended the 8th Extraordinary Session of the Heads of State of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in Libreville, Gabon.

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The Heads of State summit, 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 countries were represented by high-level officials.

Rwanda rejoined the 11-nation regional bloc in 2015 as part of efforts to tap into the potential in the region in the form of investments and duty free markets.

The leaders discussed a number of pertinent issues, including the rise of terrorism in parts of the region as well as active militia groups in DR Congo, Central Africa Republic, and Burundi who threaten to disrupt peace and security in the region.

President Bongo, who’s also the current Chairperson of the ECCAS, called on member states to continue embracing the spirit of fraternity and partnership in their efforts to tackle challenges facing the central African region.

The Heads of State summit also reviewed the elections that took place in Gabon this year 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 boss trade among member countries.

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Member states have since been requested to submit a list of products they intend to export to the other partner states upon the launch of the free trade area.

To fund the establishment and operationalisation of the free trade area, the bloc’s ministers in charge of trade and finance agreed on a special tariff to be imposed on imports by member states for products originating outside the region.

The proceeds were earmarked as contributions to meet the bloc’s operating costs as well as compensate potential revenue loss.

Fifty 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 grouping 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 (EAC) with proceeds going to joint infrastructure projects.

The country is 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.

Instead, Kigali wants to meet its financial commitments to the ECCAS Secretariat through other means.

ECCAS is comprised of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome & Principe.