We don't need Ivy League education to transform our manufacturing sector

Editor, RE: “What we need to do to bolster local manufacturing sector” (The New Times, October 7).
Carpenters in a workshop at Gakinjiro, Kigali. (File)
Carpenters in a workshop at Gakinjiro, Kigali. (File)

Editor,

RE: “What we need to do to bolster local manufacturing sector” (The New Times, October 7).

I would like to ask Mr Nziyonsenga if he watched the video I referred to. If he did, he would have agreed with my article. The first Kantanka car made in Ghana by preacher Kwando Sarfo was not even manufactured using highly skilled labour.

I am not sure of the preacher’s qualifications but the rest of the workforce was made up of welders like the ones you see in Gakinjiro and elsewhere and not highly qualified engineers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Please take time and look at the car – it will not look like it was made in Gakinjiro but from somewhere in a western country. So, I am very convinced that our engineers are able to manufacture something that can improve the working conditions of the women I referred to in my article.

The problem is that in Africa, some simple words frighten us. When we hear the word manufacturing, what first comes to mind is a factory with sophisticated machinery. In Rwanda, for instance, one will immediately think about Utexrwa, Sonatube, Inyange…but it does not have to be.

Mr Nziyonsenga argued that we don’t reflect enough on President Kagame’s repeated call for innovation. Yes, we need to devise on how to do new things or make improvement on others and that was the whole purpose of my article.

Preacher Kwando devised how to manufacture a car in his small warehouse. He did not wait for sophisticated equipment and engineers from MIT.

Kelly

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The Government, through Rwanda Development Board (RDB), has actually considered this as a key strategy to achieving Vision 2020 target of GDP of $1200.

RDB, in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), has a strategy on Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The first SEZ in Rwanda is the Kigali SEZ which, so far, has registered good success and with valuable lessons learned.

So far, occupancy rate is about 90 per cent with very productive industries busy churning out products.

More importantly, there are international investors who are bringing in the much-needed skills and expertise to train our locals who, in turn can be employed by local industries, therefore, having an immediate skills transfer benefit. Add this to other benefits, of increased tax revenues, jobs created, etc.

Ironically, 10 years ago, this area (Kigali SEZ) was farmland; most probably with output that is a very tiny percentage of what is being brought in by the manufacturing hub.

RDB/MINICOM have already set the necessary legal framework to this effect: the SEZ law and set up of SEZ authority under RDB to facilitate the initiative.

Obviously, the Government is leading the way, but this is ripe investments for private operators to make a good return especially in setting up more SEZs near our main trading partners’ border (Burundi and DR Congo).

Now to the major challenge facing manufacturing sector, especially the lack/high cost of electricity. This is being addressed by having more power on the grid but maybe more can be done and should be done.

Latest official statistics show that contribution of manufacturing sector to GDP is the highest, so obviously the effects to the economy are immediate.

Kigali Girl

 

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