Banana wine and garment enterprises are on course to expand their operations, thanks to industrial support from the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA). The support is geared towards enabling the businesses to meet the growing demand for locally produced goods. Businesses that are also looking to tap into foreign markets can also get support to enhance their quality and competitiveness. NIRDA is calling on such businesses to apply for technology and technical expertise support. Dubbed ‘NIRDA Open Calls’, the programme aims at introducing firm-level innovations to improve the ability and capacity of Rwandan enterprises to compete in strategic national and international markets, leading to increased profits, exports and the creation of decent and productive employment. According to technology audit surveys conducted by NIRDA, UNIDO and KOICA in 2017, there are still technology and business quality management gaps among enterprises and if filled, they would boost enterprise productivity and the quality of products. The priority areas identified so far is value addition in the Banana wine and the garment industry. For instance, businesses that process banana wine will get support in identifying and procuring equipment; technical advice on quality, packaging and other requirements at the different stages of production, to make the end product competitive. And, in the garment sector, players in the local fashion industry can get support to expand their operations and cater to the growing market both in Rwanda and abroad. Speaking at a workshop that brought together different banana value chain entrepreneurs in Rwamagana district on Wednesday, Kampeta Sayinzoga, the Director General of NIRDA said the programme will help local entrepreneurs have quality products that can compete on the local, regional and international market. “We are trying to work with private sector to help entrepreneurs access the newest and most modern technologies and business support. Often, people focus on financing but financing is not enough if you do not have the right equipment or knowledge to run the business. We want Rwandan companies to be more competitive with better quality products and competitive prices,” Sayinzoga said. “We want to have our own industries more competitive and to be able to create high-value jobs for young people. By supporting entrepreneurs in the acquisition of equipment, capacity building and training, we can help them acquire the hands-on support to address their business needs” Sayinzoga pointed out that the programme will further boost the industrial growth of local factories and create employment for more young men and women. “We expect more productivity from small industrial companies. We want to see their business status grow from small to medium and from medium to large businesses,” she said. Fully registered businesses or Cooperatives that have been operational for the last three years are eligible for the support. For the start, the programme will focus on garments, banana wines, juice and beer. The deadline for application is July 20, 2018. According to NIRDA, plans are underway to expand to other sectors. Apollo Segawa, a UNIDO banana value chain consultant working with NIRDA, emphasized that those who get the support will be able to close the gaps in the banana value chain. These include integration of technology, quality management systems, certification and branding. “Banana value chain has plenty of gaps that need to be bridged. People are still using traditional means of production and this makes the products not competitive at the international market or be sold in high-end supermarkets. Weak branding is also another issue that affects their business growth,” Segawa said. “If entrepreneurs get trained on new technologies aimed at boosting the standards and quality of the products, if they get enough equipment for their factories and with training on managing and branding their businesses, then it means we will produce quality and well-branded products that can even be exported,” he added. Rwamagana is one of the highest banana producing districts in the country.