The Government of Rwanda and the World Bank, yesterday, signed a financial agreement worth $26 million (Rwf19 billion) to facilitate cross-border trade between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The money is part of a $79 million financial assistance that was approved last month by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors for six regional countries.
The Rwf19 billion assistance will support the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project, which was designed to reduce the costs faced by traders, the majority of whom are small-scale and women traders, on the borders of the DRC and Rwanda, Claver Gatete, the Minister for Finance and Economic planning, told The New Times.
“The project will support the rehabilitation of Kamembe Airport to enhance its regional strategic importance, construction of markets in Nyamasheke and Rusizi to facilitate exchanges of agricultural products in the borderlands and the provision of resources to strengthen government agencies at the border to deliver efficient services,” Gatete noted.
The Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project will also support the two countries by financing the improvement of core trade infrastructure and facilities at specific land border crossing points, as well as removing barriers to trade and economic integration, supporting employment generating activities (especially for youth), and raising agricultural productivity to alleviate poverty.
Implementation of the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project will reduce non-tariff barriers to intra-regional trade, improve Rwanda’s business environment and support regional measures to improve governance, Gatete added.
Carolyn Turk, the outgoing World Bank country manager for Rwanda, said, facilitating cross-border trade is ‘extremely important for the country’.
“The financing approved today will go toward improving core trade infrastructure and facilities to provide efficient and secure flows of pedestrians, passengers and commercial vehicles at border crossing points.
These improvements will help reduce the time it takes to move across borders and conduct business activities allowing traders to take multiple trips a day and increase their incomes,” she said.
Rwanda exports more than $100 million worth of goods to the DRC; therefore, investing in such infrastructure is expected to further enhance the country’s external trade.
For many communities in the DRC and Rwanda, key markets are situated across the border and informal cross-border trade plays a major role linking small producers to markets.
Border crossing points, such as Petite Barrière in Goma, DRC, that averages 20,000 to 30,000 crossings a day, can become major bottlenecks for traders trying to reach potential buyers.