Rwanda needs to adopt better policies if it is to reduce the widening gap between imports and exports.
This was emphasized by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, at a workshop to discuss modalities to increase Rwanda’s exports, yesterday.
Rwanda’s total exports are currently 34 percent of her imports, and the target it is to increase to at least 62.1 percent by 2017.
The gap between exports and imports is further widened by the importation of capital goods, mainly by public institutions.
Kanimba said that it would require enormous efforts, like massive investment in sectors like horticulture, which have been underutilized yet have the potential to boost national exports.
“A country like Kenya registers USD1billion export turnover annually from horticulture, yet Rwanda does not even get $3 million,” Kanimba pointed out.
“We have to get practical solutions to the challenges that hinder this industry, like high freight costs, limited land available for horticulture and lack of awareness and motivation to invest in it.”
Crafts, another area considered to be of potential to boost exports was also discussed. Charles Krakoff, a consultant with MINICOM, recommended that government streamlines the sector, by grouping artisans, to increase their negotiating power on costs like transport and to easily penetrate international markets.
Kanimba further highlighted the import substitution opportunities available, like refurbishing the Musanze based, Great Lakes Cement Factory, to enable Rwanda produce enough cement for the local market by 2017.
According to Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB’s) Chief Operations Officer, Clare Akamanzi, there is pressing need for additional investment in the ICT sector, where she said that only telecommunication companies had increased their investments in the sector.
Other areas discussed and considered to be of potential include, mining as well as tea and coffee. With value addition and improved branding, Rwandan tea and coffee have the potential to increase expert earnings.
The expansion of tourism attractions and increased flights have seen the country increase revenues from the tourism.