Rwanda’s competitiveness and export capacity could soon be enhanced, thanks to the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) due in Kigali next week.
The forum is expected to attract more than 500 business leaders from around the world, according to officials from Rwanda Development Board.
It will also provide a platform where best business practices and knowledge will be discussed, Clare Akamanzi, the chief operations officer of RDB, told The New Times yesterday.
“It’s an opportunity from which we are encouraging the country’s Small and Medium Entrepreneurs to tap into and boost their capacity to export. We are also expecting a lot in areas of capacity building which SMEs can use as conduit for trade-led development,” Akamanzi said.
The forum comes at a time when government is targeting to increase its exports by 28 per cent per year by 2018 and reduce trade deficit which increased by 17.4 per cent during the first half of the year.
According to economic experts, it’s now or never for Rwanda to try and seek potential partnerships on how to achieve these targets.
It’s also an opportunity for increased participation of SMEs in both regional and global trade and how this can result into sustainable economic development, Akamanzi said.
The Forum is organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Rwanda Development Board.
It is the first time this event is held in Africa, raising hopes among the country’s small and medium entrepreneurs.
There will also be a Women Vendors Exhibition during the Forum.
Akamanzi reaffirmed the country’s readiness to host this global event.
“When you look at the number of delegates coming, its manageable, we are working round the clock to ensure that they are offered best services.”
Meanwhile, a team from RDB has completed inspecting the hotels that will accommodate the delegates.
“We hope it’s not like those other big conferences that come and pass, we hope it is bringing to us real practical knowledge, expertise and partnerships that we can finally take advantage of and grow our businesses,” Charles Gasangwa, a Kigali-based agro dealer, said.
“SMEs’ play a critical role in job creation, export promotion and economic development, it’s, therefore, important that this sector is supported if the country is to realise its economic potential.”
Hannington Namara, the chief executive of Private Sector Federation, said the Forum is an opportunity to learn from economies that have achieved great strides in terms of exports.
“We are welcoming the forum in the spirit that we will be able to learn and share experiences, but, most importantly, compare our capacities with some of the best businesses around the world,” Namara said.
“We are also taking it as an opportunity to build on the achievements already registered in the area of exports, especially in terms of access to market information, value addition through technical know-how, and many others. For us it’s an opportunity over due.”
To compete on the global market local SMEs need to link up with regional and international value chains. They need to overcome challenges related to their internal capabilities, linkages to markets and suppliers, and access to finance and technology, Namara added.
Ninety per cent of businesses in the country are classified as SMEs.