Rwanda should invest more in innovation, capacity building and value addition to enhance the performance of its informal sector and be able to enjoy economies of scale, Peter Kiguta, Director General in charge of customs and trade at the East African Community (EAC) has said.
He said this will help increase the sector’s competitiveness and capacity to penetrate regional markets.
Kiguta was briefing journalists, yesterday, ahead of the upcoming Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi (Informal) regional exhibition scheduled for December 1, in Kigali.
He advised informal sector players to make good use of the single customs territory and focus more on export production.
The 15th regional exhibition, organised under the theme, “Developing the Micro and Small Enterprises Sector for Sustainable Regional Integration and Economic Growth”, is expected to attract more than 1,000 innovators.
“Investing in the informal sector will significantly contribute toward the region’s economic sustainability,” Kiguta noted.
Promoting intra-regional trade is key for industrialisation, job creation and economic sustainability, he added.
The Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, said the annual event is an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to share experiences with their counterparts across the region.
“We are working with other partner states to ensure that more resources are channeled into the informal sector for sustainable economic development. Developing micro entrepreneurs is key to economic integration. Government will continue to support the sector through initiatives like Handicraft Excellence Award Programme (HEAP),” he said.
The regional exhibition serves to showcase products from the East African region by exposing the exhibitors to emerging markets and technologies, while at the same time offering them a bigger market for their products.
At the exhibition, experts will give the exhibitors professional advice, Kanimba added.
According to Paulin Rugero, president, Indashyikirwa Craft Association Rwanda (ICAR), the annual exhibition has proved to be an avenue for the transfer of technologies and promotion of the regional integration process.
“We are excited Rwanda will host this regional event which brings along with it business opportunities, skills and experience,” Rugero noted.
Although regional trade is growing, EAC countries still trade more with other trading blocs than they do each other. As a result, the region’s unemployment rate remains high, according to Kiguta.
Statistics indicate that, intra -regional trade grew from $5.5 billion in 2012 to a mild $5.8 billion in 2014.
Total trade between EAC partner states accounts for only 12 per cent.
Rwanda’s informal cross-border trade exports to the region increased by 7.4 per cent, fetching $109.3 million in 2013.