Exporters of locally made products to the United States of America (USA) have cited East Africa’s poor infrastructure as a major challenge to doing business in the region.
The business community, which met in a workshop organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), yesterday at Kigali Serena hotel, said that transport hikes prices of their products when they reach US markets.
“Transporting our finished products to Mombasa is too expensive. By the time they reach the shelves of US markets, their prices are very high,” said Christine Murebwayire, the Managing Director of COPROVIBA, a banana wine distillery.
“We also need loans to make our business much easier. It’s still a huge problem accessing them,” added Daphrose Nyirandikubwimana of COVAFGA, a fruit processing company.
But Finn Holm-Olsem, the director of USAID’s Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program (COMPETE), assured the exporters that the agency had instituted a transportation team to work on how East Africa’s transport routes can be improved.
He cited the region’s northern corridor which starts from the port of Mombasa through Rwanda and Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo as one route that is up for improvement.
“It is no secret that East Africa has the most expensive and inefficient systems in the world. We are working hard to help improve it,” Holm-Olsem said.
Tony Nsanganira, the Director of Export Promotion at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that the country is in the process of developing a national branding strategy that will improve its image abroad as well as quality branding for Rwandan products.
He encouraged exporters to form associations and cooperatives, saying that this would make it easy for RDB to quickly identify and solve their problems.
The meeting also aimed at identifying other challenges like product development and problems of companies that still don’t meet international standards.
The COMPETE program is the one-stop shop in East Africa for business and governments seeking to take advantage of US’ Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).
USAID has over the last five years helped Rwandan companies dealing in food products access the US market.