Two prayerful farmers entreated the Almighty for rain. The first farmer’s game plan was simple; pray and when the rains come, start preparing the land. The second farmer went ahead and started preparing the land even as he prayed.
The ‘wait and see’ attitude of the first farmer, while seemingly intelligent, was wasteful in time and lacking in faith: By the time he had prepared his land and started planting, the first farmer would be weeding.
It is this state of preparedness that the Rwandan business community must observe with regard to the Port of Mombasa.
The importance of the Port of Mombasa to Kigali cannot be overstated. It is the closest and most convenient gateway for Rwanda. Naturally, all developments at the port will affect Rwanda, and that is just the way it is. Unfortunately, the port has been uneconomical due to some avoidable inefficiency.
In fact, shipping firms have recently been introducing surcharge due to delays at the port, which end up increasing the cost of doing business in Kenya and by extension Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
All the East African countries have registered significant growth in their economies in the last five years. Apart from this, inter-country trade has also significantly increased within the auspices of the East African Community.
This will only grow with the common market in place and will grow even further with the advent of the EAC Monetary Union. This has only increased the pressure on the port—a pressure that would only increase unless fundamental improvements surfaced.
In this regard, the dry port terminal about to be completed at the Mombasa port is very good news. Put simply it will save traders costs associated with delays. This will, presumably, be passed on to consumers and lead to an increase in trade within and without Rwanda.
The intermodal terminal is directly linked to the Mombasa seaport and operates as a centre for transshipment of sea cargo to Rwanda. Facilities such as storage and consolidation of goods are also to be provided as well as maintenance for road cargo carriers.
The terminal, therefore, will reduce the competition for storage space at the Kilindini harbor. This makes importation and exportation easier, due to better customs checking and clearance. It also results in better cargo management and quicker processing time hence less time lost doing business.
Additionally, more storage sheds, refrigeration, less congestion at the Mombasa port will make business transactions cheaper.
The news of completion of the terminal comes just weeks after the Kenya Ports Authority invited bids for the extension of berths at the Mombasa port in order to enable the gateway handle larger vessels. The completion of the terminal is a development that will reduce costs to Rwandan freighters by 30 percent.
The berth extension will also foster competition and efficiency at the Dar-es-Salaam port in Tanzania as the alternative route. This competition will raise efficiency, which is just what the doctor ordered.
A vaunted idea to establish a dry port in Tororo, Uganda could also help ease congestion at the Port of Mombasa and hasten cargo clearance of goods bound for Uganda, and the Great Lakes region.
The question is, how prepared are Rwandans to take advantage of these developments?
Are we ready to import more for less and sell to our customers at fairer prices thus increase our sales volume and, of course, profit? Are we planning to increase the level of trade with our East African sister states and the world? Are we informed and continually seeking information in this regard?
These developments would make Rwanda seem like it is not landlocked but land linked. This would give Rwanda an edge in the great lakes region especially with Eastern Congo opening up. Rwanda should set itself up as the gateway to Congo. We could act now and grow, or we could sit and wait and see others grow.
Sam Kebongo is a skills development and Business Advisory Consultant. He also teaches entrepreneurship at the Rwanda Tourism University College.