Last month, TradeMark East Africa signed a mega deal with the Government of Rwanda to boost regional trade. The deal, worth USD 53 million will support Rwanda’s industrialization agenda which is geared towards increasing the country’s exports.
In an interview with Business Times’ Athan Tashobya, Patience Mutesi Gatera, the country director of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) explained more about the deal.
How exactly will this financing be spent?
We have a long pipeline of projects. The government has a huge ambition for industrialization with an aim to boost Rwanda’s exports.
We are partnering with the government in the development of industrial parks—we will be working closely with the ministry of Trade and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to identify where to develop industrial parks.
We are also looking at enhancing water transport on Lake Kivu. In Rwanda we have multiple water bodies which we are yet to exploit.
If you look at trade between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, there a lot of two-way trade that is currently happening (exports and imports). There is a huge opportunity for us to enhance that cross-border trade because it is much cheaper transporting on water.
We will be working with the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Infrastructure to develop boat infrastructure in Rusizi and Rubavu Districts to serve the East-to-West which will be much faster and cheaper.
There is also huge potential for tourism that we are looking to work with the government to develop.
We have (so far) built two cross border markets in the first phase and we will be doing one more in the next phase. We have identified one site and we will continue to work with Rwanda Revenue Authority to enhance trade processes and make them easier and faster for traders because we have realized that a lot of cost savings come from making it easier for traders to get their certificates to import or export.
When the deal was signed on March 20, you had to improvise to get to the ceremony on time, how did that come about?
It was a very eventful day for us. We had the honour, together with our CEO Frank Matsaert (Group CEO) and our board chair Ali Mufuruki, to meet with President Paul Kagame and talk about our work in Rwanda over the past 7 years and what we intend to do in our next strategy up to 2023.
At that meeting it was really refreshing to see the government’s reinforcement of the partnership with TradeMark East Africa. Immediately after that (meeting) we had a lag of about an hour between that meeting and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Ministry of Finance and economic planning.
On our way to the Ministry of Finance, there was a long traffic jam which we realized we could not avoid. My first instinct was to park our cars and and walk because do not mind walking. But we realized that the motorbikes were passing by very easily. Frank (Matsaert) was like “But why don’t we sit on motorbikes?”
It didn’t come very easy (for me) immediately but we sat on the bikes and we got to the ministry on time and we signed an agreement which means that we now able to jointly start the implementation of our programme; which is a very exciting time for us.
Tell us more about the motorbike experience, any lessons to share?
It was my first time. Not because I never had to sit on one but because it was a bit scary for me. But I must say it was a fun moment. I found it more exciting than scary.
It was about two minutes of tension but immediately after that, when you hit the clear road, it is really nice and you have this fresh air coming.
But I think the key message for us, at TMEA, the spirit is that often as a leader you are faced with such situations where you have to do the unconventional; you have to do what needs to be done to get things going and we see that when we are implementing most of our projects.
It is not something we were looking to show the world but that is what had to be done at that time and it was picked up ….that is TradeMark!
After your first experience, how do you find the moto as means of transport?
For Frank(The CEO), it was not actually his first time. By virtue of his job, he has been in all these East African countries quite often—he has been in Uganda once and was caught up in jam and had to jump on the motorbike (and that how the idea also came quickly). So, he was telling me “oh! This is really exciting”.
For me, it changed completely the way I thought about motorbikes. It is absolutely an easy way of getting around.
Between then and now, I was taking a walk from office to home and got tired along the way. Previously, I would have called up someone to come pick me—but I just stopped a moto and took a ride home. That was my second time. So, I have been on a moto twice.
You got stuck because African Heads of State were in Kigali to sign a continental landmark deal, what is your take of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement?
First of all, we will be able to look at one African Market. All the tariffs, customs and standards will be harmonized across the board.
The commitment is going to take a lot of time and will from the governments because as much as you look at the possibility of so many people benefiting there are also some who look at their own interests and they don’t want to have competition from larger market. When you have these barriers (tariffs, customs), a few people benefit. The challenge now is how we get that deal implemented.