The question of sluggish exports growth for both traditional and non-traditional commodities took centre stage Tuesday as officials from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) appeared before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and State Patrimony to discuss the current Budget Execution and projections for the next financial year.
A report presented by the RDB chief executive Francis Gatare to the legislators indicated a decline in export performance trends of minerals, which plunged from $226.3 million (about Rwf176 billion) in 2013 to $211 million (about Rwf164 billion) in 2014 and then $149 million (about Rwf116 billion).
Non-traditional exports also plummeted from $111.2 million (about Rwf86 billion) to $97.3 million (about Rwf75billion) going by the matrix table of the last two years, which equally saw profits from informal exports dropping from $110.5 million (about Rwf85 billion) to $108.5 million (about Rwf84 billion) from 2014 to 2015.
Reacting on the downward trend, MP Constance Rwaka Mukayuhi, the committee chairperson, expressed concerns, especially in agriculture sector, saying Government will need to improve utilisation of export promotion fund and to put more efforts in wooing investors in sectors that can promote exports.
“We have concerns over exports especially in the agriculture, industry and service sectors, how can we do better, how has the export fund created to support growth been utilised and there is a need to see possibilities on how we can attract investors in areas that we want,” she said.
In response, officials from RDB acknowledged the sluggish export trend but informed lawmakers about ongoing initiatives to address the gap, specifically on efforts to produce marketable quantity that can attract huge returns.
“The commodities are minimal in quantities, both traditional and non-traditional, on the other hand, there is need to link our traders with those in regional markets, Comesa and international markets,” said Euzed Muhikira, the in-charge of export promotion at RDB.
Muhikira said that while the limited market cannot be entirely be blamed for declining revnues, there was need to continue opening up more markets especially in the western parts of Africa where, for example, there is a potential market for unprocessed meats and other related products.
Conference tourism boom
Meanwhile, during the session, conference tourism was lauded as the most vibrant business arm of the board.
For example, the tourism sector has experienced a steady rise of revenues with the total annual revenue going up from $200 million (about Rwf155 billion) in 2010 to $318 million (about Rwf248 billion) by the latest 2015 statistics from the board’s documents.
In 2015 alone, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) revenue grew from $29.6 million (about Rwf23 billion) to $37.7 million (about Rwf29 billion), an area lawmakers commended but urged more efforts to make it even more productive.
On the other hand, the legislators – who had earlier expressed concerns of unfair competition from regional countries – resounded the need to take the sector to the next level by expanding touristic sites and making tourism assets more profitable.
Should the board’s budget allocation for next fiscal year be approved by the legislators, it will be running operations at the total cost of Rwf32.2 billion compared to Rwf32.9 billion allocated in the current fiscal year.