Rwanda’s volume of exports and imports through the port of Mombasa increased to 293,501 metric tonnes in 2008 up from the previous year’s 286,665 tonnes due to the increase in agricultural exports.
Figures from the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), an agency that manages the port, indicate that import volumes handled last yaer were 276,617 tonnes compared to only 16,884 tonnes of exports, a trend that partly accounted for last year’s current account deficit.
“2008 was an exceptional year for us. The economy grew and we had a very good performance from the agricultural sector which produces most of our exports,” said Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Commerce.
He attributed the growing import volumes to the increase of the purchasing power of the local population over the years.
“Over the years, the economy has been increasingly growing and this has translated into increase in the purchasing power of our people. This has also increased demand for imported products that are not produced locally,” he added.
William B. Mtengo, KPA’s Regional Resident Representative in Kampala, said they expect more of Rwanda’s exports and imports to pass through Mombasa, given the vibrant economic activities taking place in Kigali.
The total volume of imports and exports has registered a steady increase in the last three years. Statistics show that in 2006 the Rwandan cargo handled by the port amounted to 253,113 tonnes compared to 218,590 tonnes and 201,817 tonnes handled in 2005 and 2004 respectively.
However, as a result of the global economic downturn, Rwanda’s major export destinations have cut their demand, causing a decline in the country’s export value in the first two months of 2009.
Ruvebena said that though Rwanda’s economy has started to feel the pinch of the global economic recession, the effect is expected to be minimal compared to the developed world.
The National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) says the economy remained strong in 2008, growing by 11.2percent against 7.9 percent registered in 2007, despite the high imported inflation and the global financial and economic slump.
Rwanda’s exports rose by 37.5 percent in value in 2008 while imports grew by 54.2percent in 2007.
The agriculture sector production recovered from 0.7 percent in 2007 to 15percent last year.
The Port of Mombasa handles million of tonnes of cargo each year including tonnes for transit cargo for East and Central African countries.
According to KPA’s performance report for 2008 released earlier this month, despite the global recession that adversely affected shippment, economic performance and the region’s competitiveness, the Mombasa port recorded improved operational performance
The port throughput grew by 2.8 percent from 15.96 million tonnes in 2007 to 16.41 million tonnes in 2008.
Container traffic grew by 5.2 percent from 585,367 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in 2007 to 615,733 TEUs in 2008.
Transit traffic also registered remarkable growth of 10.2 percent, from 4.4 million tons in 2007 to 4.87million tons in 2008 while individual transit countries have also increased usage of the port.
However, the port’s growth rate is lower than the 22.1 percent growth witnessed in 2007.
“The slowdown in growth of container traffic was a result of a sluggish economic performance occasioned by the post-election skirmishes experienced early in the year and the current global economic downturn,” the press statement by the port reads.
On non-container sector, the negative economic impact was also felt with liquid bulk trade decreasing slightly by 0.2 percent from 5.64 million tonnes in 2007 to 5.63 million tonnes in 2008.
Transhipment traffic equally took a slight drop of 1.6 percent as a result of the post-election violence in Kenya that led to unprecedented congestion necessitating a temporary freeze in handling transhipment.