During the recently concluded third edition of the annual Made in Rwanda Expo 2017, locally produced wood products and tourism activities attracted attention of many visitors and potential clients who admired high-quality produced furniture and the variety of tourism opportunities.
At the Wood & Tourism pavilion, local manufactures showed their skilled craftsmanship by displaying wood products ranging from office, home or garden furniture, doors, children-toy’s to interior design items. The furniture exhibitor Real Contractors Ltd. even received an award as “Best Exhibitor in the Home Furniture Category”. All exhibitors were supported by the German Development Cooperation through the programme Promotion of Economy and Employment (Eco-Emploi), which was rewarded with an award as “Best Strategic Partner of Made in Rwanda”.
Convinced by the quality displayed, visitors realized how skilled Rwandan companies are: “I have been thinking that such home furniture is made in China or Malaysia but not in Rwanda. I realized that Rwandans make quality products and I think it is time that people here change their mindsets and have trust and confidence in local manufactures.”, visitor Louis Niyonsenga stated, while having a look at home furniture.
Additionally, visitors learned about beautiful and diverse tourism experiences in the Kivu Belt region. The exhibitors informed about tourism packages including new community based tourism approaches as well as kayaking, hiking and biking opportunities, different hotel services and capabilities of hosting events.
Exhibition helps producers to grow and create jobs
Innocent Twagirumukiza, Eco Tour Guide at Green Hills Ecotours said: “It is the first time to exhibit how community based tourism benefits people who locally make products. Being a participant of the Expo helps us to connect tourists to communities and businesses like coffee plantations or fishermen. Additionally to their initial earning, farmers and fishermen can offer tours to create extra income.”
Floride Umutesi, one of the local community women benefitting from community tourism in Rubavu district observed: “Community based tourism connects us to clients who buy our products. Using beads and threads, I weave handbags of which one costs about Rwf 20,000. I also make necklaces and bracelets. From the Expo I got about 20 orders from new clients and now I am about to form an association,” she said.
The managing director of Tembeya Africa, Madjaliwa Niyongoma, added that the Expo was important to help change Rwandans minds and show that not only foreigners are tourists. Locals too should embrace the culture of visiting domestic sites and enjoy the beauty of the Kivu Belt Region.
Connecting producers with potential clients
During the Expo, exhibitors were able to attend several side events and came together with potential investors. Wood partners met with representatives of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) and the Rwanda Public Procurement Agency (RPPA) to exchange information about the new public procurement guidelines and the Made in Rwanda policy. In another event, procurement officers of companies and international organizations met with RPPA to encourage them to consider Made in Rwanda products first. During the meeting, GIZ shared its best practices in procuring Made in Rwanda products.
In another side event, tour operators and hotels were connected with event organizers from Kigali to highlight the tremendous potential of the Kivu Belt region as business opportunity. The attending event organizers showed their commitment to bring more events to the Kivu Belt region to attract more people to visit the area.
Local companies become visible on the market
Various companies from all over the country including Ameki Meubles, Manumetal Ltd, Muvula Wood, Wood Habitat, Kalka & Partners, Real Contractors Ltd., Cooperative KIAKA and Rubengera Technical Secondary School produced the exhibited furniture.
Modeste Kabarega, employee of the awarded Real Contractors Ltd., felt the support of Eco-Emploi helped them to become more visible on the market: “We have not yet attained a big exhibition for wood products and the Made in Rwanda Expo introduced us to bigger markets. The public is now aware of our products as most of them appreciated them during the Expo.”
He added that as more clients know and value their products, more production would follow, resulting in more jobs in the sector. “We shall as well explore market opportunities outside Rwanda’s borders,” he said. While displaying their services and products at the Made in Rwanda Expo, the wood and tourism exhibitors drew attention to high-quality Made in Rwanda products and attracted local as well as international investors.
Private sector as key to a thriving economy
Jean Paul Kayitare, the Technical Manager at AMEKI Meuble added: “Many people are not aware that we can make such quality products and think they come from outside Rwanda. They get to appreciate the products when we exhibit them at the Expo. We need to inform the public about the products, buy locally and stop relying on imports that are sometimes of lower quality.” The wood products department of AMEKI employs about 25 people in the carpentry sector and Mr. Kayitare is confident to add more jobs when the market expands.
To expand markets, the private sector has to play a key role, the Chairman of Private Sector Federation, Benjamin Gasamagera said: “Exhibitors benefit from raising awareness of their local products. Efforts made in producing those products must also be put in marketing them which is still low and that is the reason for the exhibition.”
According to MINICOM, accelerating the local consumption of Made in Rwanda products will contribute to Rwanda’s foreign exchange savings.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, said in a recent interview that Rwanda’s trade deficit has narrowed significantly in the first six months of 2017 by over 25% compared to the corresponding period last year. He added that the government has presented a bill to parliament to ensure that at least 65% of public tenders will be assigned to local producers.