KIGALI - President Paul Kagame on Tuesday directed authorities, including local government leaders and the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) to quickly establish customs posts to facilitate trade along the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border.
Addressing Local Government leaders at the closure of a three-day retreat, President Kagame said that despite his directive last year to ease cross-border movements, nothing has been done yet to improve trade between the two countries.
He pointed an accusing finger at local leaders specifically for hampering trade between the two neighbours by ‘unnecessarily restricting’ movements of goods and people thereby denying both countries the benefits of cross-border trade.
Trade between Rwanda and DRC has flourished in the past year following the revival of the Great Lakes Economic Cooperation Programme (CEPGL), but according to President Kagame, the trade potential between the two countries has not been exploited to the maximum.
“I have told you Mayors, I told the Governors, Rwanda Revenue Authority, I told the Ministry of Finance and all other concerned people to do everything possible to facilitate trade…,”
“….but up to today I still get complaints from people that there are still problems on the border posts, especially to do with visas. Why would you ask for a visa from someone bringing money across? Instead, if I were you, I would facilitate this person to cross over without any problem,” Kagame challenged the local leaders.
He said that there is a lot DRC wants from Rwanda and vice versa, saying that there should be no reason to curtail the movements of people.
The President noted that the willingness is there on the side of residents on each side of the border, but the bureaucracy in the leadership side frustrates business.
He noted that last year alone, trade between residents of Nyamasheke District (formerly Cyangugu) and Bukavu, generated over Rwf8bn, and if conditions had been eased, that revenue figure would have been doubled.
President Kagame said that some Rwandan products like livestock, milk, flour and other food stuffs are on high demand in the DRC, but Rwandan businessmen have failed to supply the Congolese market.
He said that some other business persons who know the potential of the market have come from afar to exploit the flourishing market while Rwandans are looking on.
He put to task the Ministers of Infrastructure and Agriculture to explain why they have failed to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Infrastructure Minister Vincent Karega explained that during a fact-finding mission to Nyamasheke district, he was told by the business community that what they need from the government are warehouses and cold rooms as well as transportation means across Lake Kivu to facilitate trade.
Kagame directed Karega to put in place the required infrastructures and also directed the agriculture ministry to ease the movement of livestock across the border.
Currently only slaughtered animals are allowed to crossover to DRC.
President Kagame directed the agriculture ministry to consider the demand on the Congolese market before deciding whether they can export slaughtered or live animals.
The Governor of the Southern Province, Fidele Ndayisaba, explained that some of the restrictions are for security purposes, but President Kagame downplayed the excuse, adding that thorough security checks can ensure that armed people don’t cross over while other people go about their business normally.
He directed concerned authorities to set up customs posts as soon as possible to ease the movement of people and goods.
The Head of State warned Rubavu district officials against restricting movement of Congolese to the Rwandan side especially those seeking to enjoy hospitality facilities in Rubavu town.
Rwanda and the DRC have for many years shared good trade relations despite years of insecurity and diplomatic rows.
However, following the revival of diplomatic relations between the two countries since 2008, trade between them has again hit high levels.