A new committee meant to advise and support government in undertaking interventions that enhance business competitiveness and further ease of doing business in the country has been inaugurated.
The National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC), to be headed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was announced at a meeting in Kigali yesterday.
The committee was constituted in line with laws establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meant to enable low developed countries reduce costs of global trade.
It will oversee implementation of initiatives on trade facilitation, in part to reduce challenges faced by exporters and importers in the country.
According to its terms, the committee will ensure that institutions and all stakeholders responsible for controls and procedures related to importation, exportation and transit of goods work together to better coordinate trade related activities.
The committee brings together the private sector, civil society and public sector representatives as well as trade-related service suppliers to discuss issues of trade and trade related policies and agree on better approaches to reform and improve.
The committee will be deputised by the Rwanda Revenue Authority as a key implementing agency.
The NTFC is hoped to play a leading role in developing Rwanda’s roadmap for the implementation of the trade facilitation agenda and will be instrumental in synergising the various trade facilitation perspectives across the country, including outreach programme to sensitise stakeholders, according to officials.
The Minister for Trade and Industry, François Kanimba, who presided over the inauguration event, said the Government is committed to resolving challenges faced by exporters and importers in the country, especially by addressing burdensome procedures, time consuming processes in export and import, delays at the borders and any transparency trade-related constraints.
“The newly-formed committee will lead us in alleviating these issues by fast tracking and advising on interventions that will create fast, reliable and cost effective trade environment for all,” Kanimba said.
‘Serious on trade reforms’
Rwanda has arguably been a champion of trade reforms. With partners like TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), the Government has already implemented a number of trade facilitation interventions.
These include the Rwanda Electronic Single Window, which speeds up the process of clearing imports and exports in addition to improving efficiency, transparency and accountability in revenue collection.
These interventions have been cited by the annual World Bank Doing Business Report as key contributors to improving Rwanda’s ranking in ease of doing business index.
In 2015, the country was ranked third easiest country to do business in Africa.
The World Bank Doing Business Report 2015 also ranked Rwanda 46th out of 189 countries from 143th place in 2008, signalling a significant improvement in the trade regulatory environment in the country that is conducive to start and operate a business.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) representative, Celine Bacrot, said trade facilitation can boost a country’s competitiveness by harnessing trade opportunities to increase its position in the global value chain.
Bacrot pledged UNCTAD’s support in providing technical assistance to the committee whenever needed.
Patience Mutesi, the country representative of TMEA, said they would continue to support Rwanda and its East African Community partner states in improving business environment by responding to the needs of government and the private sector.
“A key area that we are looking to, for example, is the development of trade information portals that will enable availability of information to the public and any potential investor in Rwanda,” Mutesi said.
The National Trade Facilitation Committee was inaugurated following a three-day training and awareness workshop of the members held in Kigali that sought to build its capacity to ensure all members are well equipped to deal with the assigned responsibilities and deliver on the expected results.
The World Trade Organisation requires each member state to establish and maintain a national committee on trade facilitation.
The trade facilitation is geared at speeding up customs procedures; making trade easier, faster and cheaper; providing information on all trade laws and regulations in a transparent manner; reducing bureaucracy and corruption, and using technological advances and enhancing port efficiencies.
The overall objective is to boost global trade by expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods.