The Covid-19 pandemic and the political and security challenges between Rwanda neighbouring countries had a significant effect on the country’s cross-border trade, but things are taking a positive trajectory, the trade minister has said. According to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, as the pandemic subsides and regional security issues settled, there is an increase in flow of goods in and out of the country. In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Ngabitsinze said there are many requests for trade permits and volumes are also increasing. “We are doing well now but we expect to be more efficient in the near future.” Rwanda’s main trade partners are within the East Africa Community and according to Ngabitsinze, “the borders are open, apart from Burundi where we still have some issues but when you look at our borders with DR Congo, people have been trading even during the pandemic. DR Congo takes 60 to 70 per cent of our export revenues. We recently had some security issues but people continued to trade.” He added that government ensures traders have basic infrastructure along the common borders like warehouses to stock their merchandise. Rwanda reopened its border with Uganda early this year following a three-year impasse and according to Ngabitsinze, trade between the two countries is steadily catching up. “The border with Uganda is open. We are seeing more people requesting for licensing permits to venture into trade between the two countries. There are products coming from Uganda like sugar, juice, cooking oil, roofing nails, agricultural produce, there are requests to bring in cement too, and more,” said the Minister. Licensing is a tool provided by the international trade agreement to ensure quality of products exported and imported. It’s a process that is internationally applied. Asked if trade between the two countries has gone back to where it was before February 2019, Ngabitsinze said; “so far, trade is going on well. It’s not yet where it was before but when we calculate and track the current trends we are sure in one year we will be where we were before 2019.” He attributed the delays in catching up on the shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis adding that the two countries are currently enjoying cordial relations. Currently, Rwanda imposes internationally-required taxation policies on all goods coming into the country. “In East African Community, the tariffs we apply are those we agreed on under the EAC treaty and protocols and we treat all member countries the same. Rwanda doesn’t have a particular tax because we are signatory to multilateral agreements,” said Ngabitsinze. The New Times will publish a detailed interview in the Monday edition.