Rwanda eyes cross-border markets to enhance exports

The Government is looking to cross-border markets planned at key border areas to improve trade and Rwanda’s exports to the region.
The markets will have warehouses, a development that is expected to solve the challenge of storage. / File
The markets will have warehouses, a development that is expected to solve the challenge of storage. / File

The Government is looking to cross-border markets planned at key border areas to improve trade and Rwanda’s exports to the region.

According to James Tayebwa, the in charge of regional integration (cross-border trade) at Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs, a total of eight cross-border markets will be constructed by the government at different crossing points to facilitate trade between Rwanda and neighbouring countries – DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania.

 

Tayebwa was giving an update on the ongoing works of the Rubavu Cross-border Market that is being built by government and TradeMark East Africa. Funds for Nyamasheke, Kagitumba and Rusumo cross-border markets have also been secured and construction is expected to start in August, according Tayebwa.

 

He said the government was also mobilising resources to set up cross-border markets at Nemba, Gatuna and Rwemasha markets.

 

Once they are completed, the markets will have warehouse facilities, among others. Traders and local firms say the facilities will support cross-border businesses and could also help enhance Rwanda’s exports to the region.

Tayebwa was optimistic the warehouses will address the challenge of lack of storage facilities by firms involved in export trade and ease access to Rwandan products by regional buyers.

“Regional buyers will be able to get goods at the border instead of travelling inland to procure them from factories or co-operatives across the country. This will also help reduce operational costs,” he said.

Donatien Mungwarareba, the director of advocacy, communication and labour relations at PSF, said the warehouse facilities could boost Rwanda’s trade with neighbouring states as they will help ease access to export goods.

“This will also enable traders to network, share information, as well as discuss ways on how to enhance market share,” he said. He added that the move will help ensure sustainable supply besides improving the supply value chain.

Musa Babonampoze, the head of Turwany’Inzara Co-operative in Gisenyi, said government will give priority to small traders in co-operatives to enable them operate in an organised way.

“Presently, many traders work from different locations. So, the market will provide better working environment and help improve trade,” said Babonampoze.

About Rubavu market

The $2.6 million Rubavu Cross-border Market in Gisenyi will have cold rooms for perishable produce, stores and warehouses, grocery stores, as well as a children’s centre for female traders with toddlers.

Tayebwa said over 10 per cent of the works has been completed, noting that the project will be completed by end of the year. The project, which is being undertaken by Ambitious Construction Company, a Ugandan firm, commenced in January.

Cross-border traders at Gisenyi have in the recent past complained about the many challenges they face while carrying out their businesses such as lack of information and funding, thefts as well as lack of a permanent market.

He said 73 women co-operatives in the area will be given first priority to acquire space in the market.

“This market will be able to reduce the constant time of crossing the border by traders, provide the adequate or suitable infrastructure which is designed to meet export opportunities, provide trade information as well as skills and finance to increase trader’s financial support,” said Tayebwa.

Trade with East Africa

Rwanda’s formal exports to East African Community (EAC) rose by 31.1 per cent in 2016 to $157.52 million in 2016, from $120.15 million the previous year.

Imports from EAC countries rose 1.6 per cent from $519.36 million in 2015 to $527.56 million last year. Informal cross-border trade with neighbouring countries went up 21.4 per cent to $121.93 million last year from $100.45 million in 2015.

Rwanda’s exports to the DR Congo represented 74.7 per cent of the total informal cross border exports, followed by Uganda with 19.1 per cent, while exports to Burundi and Tanzania account for 6.24 per cent and 0.02 per cent, respectively.

Informal imports were recorded at over $30.5 million from $21.6 million the previous year. The country imports packaging materials, agriculture products, bags, and home use goods, among others, from the region.

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