Local producers are turning to the West African market in a new strategy that could enhance and increase the country’s exports, Sunday Times has learnt.
In this new export promotion strategy spearheaded by the Private Sector Federation, the first consignment landed in Congo-Brazzaville last Monday with more cargo expected in the West African country this week.
“The whole idea is about how we can facilitate our members to access foreign markets,” Stephen Ruzibiza, the Chief Executive Officer of Private Sector Federation said.
“West Africa is a virgin market for Rwandan products and our strategy is to look for more markets in order to increase our exports.”
Under the Joint Exporters Group Ltd (JEG), the company buys products from local producers for export and this is expected to address impediments encountered by exporters.
The new company – owned by exporters – is supported by PSF specifically to facilitate exports.
Under JEG, the initial visit last year to ascertain the market feasibility was conducted by PSF Chairman Robert Bafakulera, Ruzibiza and others to Brazzaville and Pointe Noire Port, the only sea port of the Republic of the Congo, with different Business meetings held between Rwandan and Congolese exporters.
Ruzibiza said that although they started with Congo-Brazzaville, the target is to expand to other West African countries.
With the organisation and support of the Private Sector Federation of Rwanda, a trade mission was organised and conducted in Brazzaville last year to ascertain export market possibilities for Rwandan products. The delegation led by Bafakulera and Ruzibiza comprised of 36 members from the sectors of agro-processing, export, logistics, general trading, and construction.
Two high-level meetings between the Private Sector Federation and the Congolese Chamber of Commerce were held.
In a bid to enhance Rwanda’s Exports, the government of Rwanda set a target of increasing the annual exports by 17 percent and this will require different initiatives to support and ensure enhancement of exports and access to foreign markets.
“Rwandan products are already on the Brazzaville market and for perishable goods we have established a fully-fledged multi-service centre with modern cold-rooms to preserve our products,” said Félix Mutagoma, an official who coordinates exports under the JEG project.
Mutagoma explained that another consignment of mostly agricultural products will be airlifted next week.
The first consignment of more than three tons was airlifted by national carrier – RwandAir last week but 26 more tons will head to Brazzaville next week both by the national carrier while the bulk of the consignment will go by sea through the Tanzanian seaport of Dar es Salaam.
In March 2011, RwandAir launched direct flights between Kigali and Brazzaville, which was then the carrier’s eleventh route.
Rwanda exports fruits, juices, coffee, milk, vegetables, meats, beans, cassava products among others.
Recent statistics shows that Rwanda’s total exports earnings in 2018 grew to $995.7 million from 943.5 million in 2017 with the volume of exports growing by 17 per cent to 742,300 tons.
The new company, JEG, comprises of 25 members and it will deal in exports of Rwandan products and any other trade as deemed necessary by the market in Brazzaville and other parts of West Africa.
The company has already entered into a lease agreement for a commercial building in Brazzaville where all necessary installations such as cold rooms, fridges, air conditioners and others are already in place.