Members of the senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance have called on the Director-General of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), Joseph Mugarulire, to concentrate on practical plans if he is to deliver more results.
In a meeting with NIRDA to review progress, Senator Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa told members that it was important to concentrate on practical plans than theoretical ones to effectively address the economic issues of the country.
“You are implementers of the national policy on industries but these should be industries that actually fix the gap that we have had between exports and imports. Looking at your responsibilities, what we were expecting from NIRDA is to prove to the country that the problems that we have concerning industrial development can be fixed,” he said.
Prof. Karangwa criticised some of the institution’s plans that he said were frustrating since they mirror past mistakes, advising the use of pilot units before anything concrete is invested in.
“You told us about speeding up the process to build herbal medicine plant and I wonder why you would want to do that when the one that we have in Huye failed. That would be a waste of resources. What I am interested in is knowing how the Government is going to recover the money it lost in the failed project not how another one is going to be built,” he said.
The senator appealed to NIRDA to focus on small but sustainable plans.
“What NIRDA needs to tell us is what practical challenges they face. Even if we promote industries, we must not forget that it is important that our products are competitive and affordable,” he said.
Senator Evariste Bizimana said he found the industrial development sector wanting, pointing out Mugarulire’s failure to indicate which industries had challenges that needed immediate intervention.
“You are telling us that you have visited industries to find out what challenges they face but you have not told us what challenges they have or how they will be fixed. You need to show us a proper plan pointing out what is needed, when it is needed and the role in reducing the gap that was earlier mentioned,” he said.
He wondered why NIRDA had vacated the former IRST offices in Huye, something that he says was impacting negatively on the institution since there was better infrastructure and was closer to the university where research can be easily done.
Mungarulire said that though NIRDA was created in 2013, the institution started formally operating in November 2014 as a replacement of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST).
“We are tasked with implementing the national industrial development policy, patent inventions and traditional knowledge in relation to industrial development and promote the trade of research products. We are also required to contribute to the establishment of trade companies of research products, facilitating the growth of small and medium enterprises, among others, but we face many challenges like lack of knowledge and expertise,” he said.
He asked for time to fix some of the issues, adding that he was working with other institutions to improve.
Committee president Jacqueline Muhongayire said diversification of the economy into new sectors of activity is essential for meeting Vision 2020 goals.
The industrial sector is currently small, contributing on average around 15 per cent of GDP.
For Rwanda to achieve Vision 2020 target, the share of industry has to increase to 26 per cent by recording at least 12 per cent growth annually.