Rwanda-Tanzania trade forum slated for May

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Tanzanian Foreign Affairs minister, Dr Augustine Mahiga (R) and Louise Mushikiwabo address the media in Kigali recently. (Courtesy)

A trade forum between Rwanda and Tanzania is scheduled to be held in Kigali next month as the two countries’ business communities look to enhance ties.

The May 20 forum aims to promote trade and investments, as well as bilateral partnerships between the business actors from the two East African Community (EAC) partner states, according to organizers.

According to Stephen Ruzibiza, the chief executive, Private Sector Federation (PSF), Rwanda, the upcoming trade forum will be attended by both private and public sector actors.

“The Rwanda-Tanzania trade forum seeks to strengthen bilateral ties between the Rwandan and Tanzanian business community by enhancing trade relations between both countries, and increase exports between the two sister countries,” Ruzibiza said.

Ruzibiza further said the forum seeks to provide a conducive business environment for Rwandan and Tanzanian companies, as well as make Tanzania one of the top trading partners of Rwanda.

The forum will be held under theme: “Committed to strengthening bilateral trade relations and investment opportunities.”

Dubbed ‘Tanzania-Rwanda Trade Forum 2016’, the event, the first in a long time, is expected to attract more than 100 key business players from Tanzania and Rwanda, and policy decision-makers from both governments.

The forum is aimed at fostering trade initiatives whose ultimate goal is to improve business environment, formalise trade and strengthen economic ties between Tanzania and Rwanda.

Expected outcomes include engaging and empowering Tanzanian and Rwandan entrepreneurs to venture beyond national boundaries; promoting corporate social responsibility and empowerment; and providing networking opportunity for stakeholders within the Rwanda and Tanzanian business community.

It also expected to promote public-private partnerships, organisers said in a statement.

The trade forum is being organised by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Tanzania Trade Development Authority (TANTRADE), Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA), and Rwanda’s PSF.

Rwanda-Tanzania trade in numbers

Tanzania’s port of Dar-es-Salaam is by far the most important port for Rwanda, accounting for roughly more than 70% of all Rwandan international maritime trade. More than 90% of other exports (apart from tea and coffee) go through Dar es Salaam, according to figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

But, in the period of 2013 to 2015, trade statistics indicates that total trade with Tanzania declined to $68 million in 2015 from $105 million in 2013. Tanzania is Rwanda’s third largest trading partner in EAC.

Improved ties

The statement indicates that this first annual bilateral trade forum comes after “an exciting aura of refreshed political will and relations” between the two countries after the inauguration of the current President of Tanzania, John Pombe Joseph Magufuli in October last year.

The forum, organizers say, comes at an opportune moment.

President Magufuli’s visit to Rwanda early this month, his first foreign trip since assuming office, was a sign of new and improved relations between the two neighbouring states, observers say.

During a state dinner organised in honour of President Magufuli in Kigali, his host, President Paul Kagame, said he and his Tanzanian counterpart would work together on the journey of moving the East African Community (EAC) – a six-nation bloc to which both countries subscribe – forward.

“Since when you were elected, your presence has been refreshing; your words and deeds reflect our vision,” Kagame then told his guest.

President Magufuli also thanked President Kagame for the invitation to visit Rwanda. “The people of Tanzania hold in high esteem the beauty and history of Rwanda; and I admired the determination and commitment of the leadership of this country to succeed against all odds.”

Magufuli, the current chair of the EAC, said that he and Kagame agreed to increase momentum in following up on the implementation of regional development initiatives.

“I have come to reassure you of my commitment to strengthen the relationship between Rwanda and Tanzania,” he added.

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