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Covid-19: Rwanda loses $48m in cancelled meetings

A delegate poses a question to panelists during the 20th International Conference on AIDS in Africa that was held in Kigali in December 2019. Due to Covid-19, Rwanda has lost US $48 million in cancelled meetings. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

Rwanda’s MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry has so far been hit by a $48 million (over Rwf45 billion) loss as a result of the global Covid-19 crisis, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, has said.

She said this on Monday during a news conference organised to update Rwandans on Covid-19.

 

Hakuziyaremye said that although the country had taken a $48m hit in MICE losses by May this year, there was hope that the national economy had an opportunity of making an equivalent of $180 million.

 

“We can’t quantify all the losses so far and although we are not going to realise the same economic growth that we have experienced in the last 10 to 15 years, the International Monetary Fund says that we still have an opportunity of growing by 2 percent,” she said.

 

Plunge expected

While MICE generated $56 million (about Rwf53 billion) in 2019, signs that the government’s $88 million projection for 2020 was hanging by a thread by April this year.

Between March and April alone, the country had already lost $10 million (Rwf9.5 billion) or 10 percent of the estimated revenues when twenty previously scheduled meetings were postponed.

After that, the highly anticipated Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that was scheduled to take place in Kigali in June was postponed. The high-level conference was expected to attract about 10,000 delegates including 52 heads of states.

The Minister for Trade and Industry Soraya Hakuziyaremye speaks during the news conference in Kigali on Monday, July 20. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

This summit was estimated to generate over $700 million, or nearly double of Rwanda’s annual tourism revenues, from trade deals. The country’s forecast had put delegates’ expenditure alone to up to $80 million.

Data provided by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) show that revenues from foreign visitors dropped by 35 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Not all is lost

The government has set up a Rwf200bn Economic Recovery Fund (ERF) to help the tourism sector and other Small and Medium Enterprises to get back on their feet.

Hakuziyaremye told reporters that SMEs and other businesses are eligible for loans from this fund which will be disbursed by banks and SACCOS at an 8 percent interest for five years.

“Anyone who fulfils the criteria set by the central bank can apply. The good news is that not only will the applicants be given a one year grace period, the Business Development Fund (BDF) will help them with 75 percent collateral of the loans that they are applying for,” she explained.

She shed light on the struggles currently being faced by industrialists, pointing out that their effort to keep afloat as the world shut down, halting purchase of raw materials.

“In an analysis we did, 78 per cent of the industrialists said that they had challenges getting raw materials, had been hit hard by the lack of clients and obviously their profits crashed,” she said.

Hakuziyaremye said that agribusiness declined by 3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 while exports dropped by 16 percent mostly due to the closure of borders and lockdown in both Rwanda and her business partners.

Money spent

The Minister for Health, Dr Daniel Ngamije, told journalists that the government has so far spent $60 million (over Rwf54 billion) on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ngamije explained that the money was spent on testing, isolating, treating, infrastructure and human resources among others that all require finances

“Combatting the virus has been very expensive. The Government had projected spending $73 million in fighting the pandemic in a period of 6 months since March, and we have so far spent $60 million,” he said.

The police spokesperson; Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera warned those who violate the directives and undermine instructions by Police officers enforcing the directives will be arrested.

“We warn those who spread rumours and those who refuse to abide by the directive set by the government that the long arm of the law will catch up with them,” he said.

Kabera said that a list of 498 motorists who violated the curfew and disregarded instructions by officers had been published and still, some have refused to report to Police as instructed.

“We called all those on the list to voluntarily come forward. Those who have not reported are advised to do so because they will be located and arrested if they don’t heed the call,” he said.

The Minister of Local government; Anastase Shyaka reminded that although places of worship are now open, there would be no hesitation in closing down any that do not adhere to the guidelines in place.

“So far, we are making progress. However, on Sunday, we swiftly swung into action and closed some churches that had opened without being given a green light to do so. We are also investigating the leaders of these houses of worship,” he said.

Shyaka also highlighted the benefits that have come from harnessing the relationship between local authorities and the Police, which he said have yielded better results in the last few days.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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