Over the last 20 years, Rwanda International Trade Fair has grown by leaps and bounds becoming a strategic platform through which major businesses from around the world have penetrated the Rwandan market.
The annual exhibition, the largest in the country, is organised by Private Sector Federation in partnership with the Ministry of Trade Industry and East African Community affairs.
Many foreign exhibitors that first came to Rwanda through the annual exhibition have since set up shop in the country.
Aware of this, Private Sector Federation has stepped up efforts to promote the event beyond Rwandan borders, encouraging foreign businesses to come and showcase their products but also consider investing in the country, industry leaders said.
Movit Products Ltd, a Ugandan cosmetics company, is one of the foreign firms that first came to Rwanda through the exhibition and has since set foot in the Rwandan market.
This, officials say, has helped create employment for many Rwandans but also boosted the country’s economy in one way or another.
John Nabirinda, the Movit country distributor, says the company set up shop in Rwanda thanks to the trade fair.
“We were attracted to the market. We came as exhibitors in the expo only to realize that there was actually a good market for our products,” he told The New Times.
The other foreign firms that have entered the local market through the expo include Dubai’s JKK International from Dubai (have since started a construction company), Ugand’a Mukwano Industries (laundry detergents, cooking oil etc) and Roofings (roofing materials); China’s electronics vendor ALINK Technologies and Yvonne Exclusive Design, an upmarket fashion store.
Others include Egyptian House of Kitchenware, which opened shop in Kimironko, a Kigali suburb dealing in general trading, and Tanzania’s Dodoma, a mattress maker.
“The environment in Rwanda is conducive for business,” Nabirinda said.
He said they have also participated in other trade fairs organised by various districts across the country.
Amir Fubisun of Fubisun Malaysian, a company with a strong presence in Dubai and Malaysia, said his firm has been participating in the annual expo for the last seven years and were now considering entering the Rwandan market.
“The Rwandan market is “unbelievable, it’s safe and business friendly”, he said. “That’s why we have been coming to this event for the last seven years,” he told The New Times from their stall at the Expo Ground on Wednesday – on the second day of the 2017 expo.
This year’s fair, which is expected to be officially opened today, is the 20th edition.
“We will certainly end up opening a branch here. There is no reason you can’t invest in a place that is unbelievably safe and conducive,” Fubisun, whose firm deals in home appliances, said.
Rwanda has been among the fastest growing economies in the world thanks in part to business-friendly policies as repeatedly recognised by the World Bank.
The 2017 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Rwanda the second best place in Africa, after Mauritius, where doing business is easiest.
Globally, the country improved six places, ranking 56th out of 190 nations. The ranking also indicated that Rwanda reduced the gap between the country and Mauritius from 30 places last year to only seven places.
Rwanda was ranked among the economies with the largest improvements in Business Regulations, following a series of key reforms, including adoption of a new investment code and the introduction of an Integrated Electronic Case Management System in Kigali commercial courts.
In recent years, the country has rolled out a number of policy directives to improve the business environment most of which have yielded results, according to local and international businesses.
Starting business has been made easier through online registration which offers a one-stop shop as well as streamline post-registration processes, such as availing VAT registration procedures online.
The Government also eased trading across borders by removing the mandatory pre-shipment inspection for imported products which significantly reduced multiple requirements and steps.
Stephen Ruzibiza, the PSF Chief Executive Officer, said the federation will continue to push for an even friendlier business environment, while also working to attract foreign investors.
“Attracting foreign investors has been one of our top priorities and that is why we look at the Rwanda International Trade Fair as a magnet to attract more investors,” Ruzibiza said.
“We will continue to organise flawless trade fairs by increasingly employing innovation and creativity to attract both local and internationals,” he said
Over 500 local and international exhibitors are participating in this year’s trade fair. They draw from Africa, Asia and Europe.
Some 176 exhibitors are foreign businesses.
They are mainly showcasing products in various sectors such as ICT, banking and finance, agribusiness, arts and crafts, infrastructure, and general trading.