By Paul Ntambara
The Private Sector Federation (PSF) is the country’s flagship business institution. The member-based organization is dedicated to promoting and representing the interests of the Rwanda business community.
To be able to drive Rwanda’s economy as articulated in the Vision 2020, PSF has had to undergo a restructuring process so as to address the challenges that have held back this vital sector in the economy.
“The private sector is supposed to be the motor of development but in earnest the government is far ahead of us. This is something that we have decided to address head-on. The private sector in Rwanda should be able to drive the economy like it is in other countries in the region,” Niyigena says.
PSF early this year organized a retreat with the aim of identifying the causes of slow growth of the private sector. One of the outcomes of this retreat was the need to revise the federation’s strategic plan.
“In the past the PSF employed a top-bottom approach but in earnest we should have began with the business persons at the bottom, associations, chambers and then the Federation,” says Niyigena.
To address this, the Federation has embarked on a campaign to organize its members at grass root level who are grouped in associations and chambers. PSF is made up of 10 chambers with different associations. Namely;
• Chamber of Agriculture
• Chamber of Commerce
• Chamber of Crafts
• Chamber of Industry
• Chamber of Liberal Professions
• Chamber of Tourism
• Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs
• Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs
• Chamber of Finance
• Chamber of ICT
The motivation behind bringing business persons working in associations and chambers is to make them become stronger and speak with one voice.
“Some associations like the bar association are strong but together with other associations they need to join a chamber and work together. This way they will work better with the PSF secretariat,” Niyigena enthuses.
The chamber is also seen as an avenue through which common challenges can be addressed.
Advocacy: giving business people a voice
Gerard Nkusi Mukubu, Deputy CEO of PSF and Chief Advocacy Officer says that the federation works closely with government to find solutions to varied challenges affecting the private sector.
“We do Advocacy on cross cutting issues affecting businesses like taxes and taxation, and other individual issues that may hinder business. Our aim is to see busi-nesses grow,” says Mukubu.
Mukubu says that PSF is now putting fresh focus on the region as a trade block with studies on the impact the region is having on doing business in Rwanda.
“For example we will look at the impact of joining the East African Community on the private sector, what have been the benefits of joining the customs union? People are asking these questions but no study has been done so far,” he says.
On the local scene, PSF is looking at taking its advocacy role to the decentralized structures at the Province, district and sector levels.
Mukubu adds: “Advocacy has to go down in provinces, districts and sectors. We have deployed staff at all these levels to find out what challenges business people face. Some issues can be solved at the lower levels through different forums like the tax issues forum but the secretariat is ready to handle any issue that cannot be handled at those levels.”
PSF will launch different forums through which different issues affecting business people will be addressed. These include; Rwanda Bureau of Standards forum and Rwanda Environment Management Agency forum. PSF will also be looking at reviving existing Memoranda of understanding with institutions like the City of Kigali, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Prime Ministers Office, Ministry of Finance so as to promptly solve issues affecting the private sector.
100 days action plans drawn
PSF has been holding marathon planning meetings with PSF committees from Sector to Provincial level. Meetings were also held with the different chambers. The major aim of these meetings was to plan concrete actions that will be implemented.
Urgent issues that called for advocacy were also identified during these meet-ings. All PSF structures drew action plans which they committed to deliver in 100 days.
The meetings also provided an opportunity for an interaction with the business community. Different PSF decentralized entities were berated for lacking the capacity to deliver services to the business community.
To address this, PSF is shifting its focus to the decentralized structures so as to serve its members better. They are being beefed up with stronger secretariats and more capable staff.
Niyigena says: “We have to make PSF’s role known to the business community in the country. Our presence has to be felt by the business community by serving them well. This we will do by continuing to play an advocacy role, help members access cheap lines of credit, search for investment opportunities and helping them in drafting business plans among others.”
Chambers have been identified as the roots of the federation. Strengthening them has been given top priory in the restructuring process. With the help of a consultant, different chambers are being helped prepare strategic plans that will guide them in the next three years. They are being helped to put in place concrete actions that will have to be taken to give the federation a new face.
Chamber chairmen speak
Dr Pierre Célestin Kanimba is the chairman of the chamber of Liberal Professionals. He runs a prominent medical facility in Kigali City. He says that the chamber is composed of different associations. These include associations of; doctors, lawyers, architects, consultants and auditors. Other professionals like journalists, pharmacists are set to join.
“We have to get to know each other first if we are to work together. We are from different professional backgrounds but we need one another for business,” says Kanimba.
He has wise counsel for those who have not yet joined different associations and chambers: “The days of working as indi-viduals are long gone; we need to work to-gether if we are to improve our businesses and grow the economy.”
According to Benjamin Gasamagera, the pace of development in the country is very high and that the private sector has to adapt to this change. One way of doing this is by being better organized as asso-ciations and as a chamber.
“As the economy grows, the way of doing business changes, being up to the task means working together and sharing information. We should not work as retail shop owners,” he says.
One of the challenges to industrialization according to Gasamagera is the lack of the relevant skills and the general attitude towards industrialization.
“People still believe that producing finished products is a heinous task. But as we get students graduating in science and technology from the different institutions in the country, this mentality is changing,” Gasamagera says.
The opening of technical and vocational schools and the strengthening of the TVET program is seen as a big boost to the industry. This is seen as a sure way of bridging the skills’ gap.
Gasamagera notes that the private sector should emulate government because ‘it is more organized and its vision is clear.’
“Working in chambers will help us consolidate efforts, help each other grow and generate more wealth,” he concludes.