Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente is expected to appear in parliament on Thursday next week where he will shed light on the national economic recovery. In a letter written earlier this month, Ngirente requested both speakers of parliament to allocate him time to present the government’s activities with regard to economic recovery. “I am happy to request you to allocate me time to enable me to present to both chambers of parliament the government’s activities aimed at reviving the economy with a focus on industrialisation,” he wrote. His attendance was initially scheduled for Thursday, March 18 before it was postponed to March 25 due to other commitments. Ngirente’s briefing is expected to shed light on the progress of the Rwf100bn economic recovery fund which was rolled out in June last year. In late 2020, the government reviewed the terms and conditions for local firms eligible to receive the fund to increase the number of local businesses eligible for the support after reports of low uptake. He is expected to address challenges the industrial sector is facing despite being considered a key driver to economic growth and transformation. These include lack of skilled labour, low production, high cost of raw materials and access to capital. Statistics from RDB indicate that local manufacturers only supply 11 per cent of the sugar market, 4 per cent of wood, 10 per cent of garments, and 18 per cent of plastics markets. The maize and rice markets are supplied at 35 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Many domestic factories produce at 30-50 per cent on average of their capacity. Some even go below 30 per cent, take rice, with 25 factories across the country that produce at around 25 per cent. As the country was still grappling with these challenges, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, taking a huge toll on industry, with estimates showing that the sector contracted at the rate of 19 per cent in the first half of 2020. This set back the initial target that was estimated to see the sector grow from 17 per cent in 2014 to 37 per cent by 2024. Solange Uwimana recently started a soap-making business. She says that she is employing about 60 people but challenges with regard to raw materials and high energy costs are her biggest challenge. “I would like the government to really invest resources in manufacturers especially the ones whose businesses have improved greatly over the years. I started off with five people. I am employing 60. How many do you think I would employ if I had the resources?” she wondered. Andrew Kanyonya, the Business Development Manager at the New Kigali Designers and Outfitters, a local garment company, recently told The New Times that the skills gap is his biggest challenge. “Where we are right now is at the level where we need technical transfer because there’s a skills gap and it’s a huge challenge to any manufacturing subsector,” he said. In a garment subsector, for instance, he proposed a need to establish a ‘textile college’, where individuals offer skills and teach techniques of the industry. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many industries closed temporarily while others with limited capacity, particularly emerging firms like small and medium enterprises, permanently shut down.