Joy Ndugutse, one of the Directors of Gahaya Links who was seated among the guests rose up wearing a broad smile from ear to ear, as she majestically walked to receive the first ever Best Exporter Award.
The announcement thrilled the audience that was quietly seeping wine and drinking beer. They clapped their hands as the music system played the congratulations…… jubilations……. tune.
Amidst the clapping and music that filled the Kigali Serena Hall, Clare Akamanzi, the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotions Agency, shouted atop of her voice, “Its better to do business in Rwanda.”
When she was given chance to address the fully packed hall, Ndugutse told the audience that there was nothing impossible in the world.
She raised her hands and loudly said, “Today, thousands of women in rural areas have changed their lives and their husbands are happy. I am proud of this.”
Gahaya Links employs over 4,000 rural women. The company exports these baskets to Macy Stores in the United States. Last year, it sold nearly 30,000 baskets that raked in about $316,000 (Rwf173.5m).
“People thought I was crazy when I came from Washington DC (USA) and went to the villages to invest in rural women,” she said. To make it better to invest in Rwanda, government has reduced import tax on goods from Tanzania.
The goods that used to attract 30 per cent charge have dropped 6 per cent. The decision comes at a time when ten legal amendments are in parliament. If passed, the laws will remove a surcharge on sugar, reduce delays in audit in case of refund or issue-oriented audit.
James Musoni, Finance and Economic Planning Minister said the lengthy procedures and requirements in doing cross-border trade have also been tackled ‘head-on’.
Some of the reforms include: self assessment and tax declaration by tax payers, Blue channels, pre-clearance and pre-payment of taxes, as well as increased working hours from 8 to 16 hours.
“I can only urge you to take full advantage of these new initiatives,” Musoni said.
This is the first time in Rwanda’s history exporters and investors are awarded for their efforts in contributing to the national economic development.
Musoni described investors and exporters as the heart of Rwanda’s socio-economic transformation programme.
“It is my great pleasure to thank them for running successful businesses and for the important contribution they make to the lives of Rwandans.”
Minister Musoni however challenged the private sector to increase production saying the country is depending on more imports which is not good for the economy.
“If one compares the rapid increase of imports, which reached 35 per cent, with the slower increase of exports of 18 per cent, it is clear that there are untapped opportunities in our economy,” he added.
In these awards, Bralirwa, scooped the Best Investor of the year while Gahaya Links makers of the Rwanda peace baskets.
Bralirwa, the manufacturer of Mutzig, Primus, Guinness, Amstel beer and Coca-Cola soft drinks, became the overall winner for creating backward and forward linkages.
The brewery employs about 35,000 people, among which 1,000 are directly employed. Others are farmers who produce maize, transporters, manufactures and retailers.
From tax contribution, the treasury received about 13 per cent--Rwf33 billion of its revenues from Bralirwa alone. The company also invested about Rwf34 billion ($6 million) in this year.
MTN Rwanda emerged the second best investor while Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR) was awarded as the best company for demonstrating innovations and technology transfer.
On the overall ranking list of investors, Bralirwa comes first, followed by MTN, BCR, Urwibutso, Ameki Colours and then Kabuye Sugar Works.
Francis Gatare, the Director General, Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA), said that, awarding the companies is a very essential recognition that they deserve at all cost.
“These awards are therefore a very wise and important way of appreciating our investors and exporters for their contribution in developing our economy or our country in general.”
“It is also a way of motivating others to do more. We are simply fueling the lamp to glow brighter,” he stressed.
Rwanda promises to bringing back inflation to second digit by end 2009 in a situation where the country’s banking sector has never been healthy like it is today.
Bralirwa’s Managing Director, Door Plantenga said, “If Rwanda has 13 Bralirwas, each paying 33 billion francs a year, then Rwanda can forget about foreign aid.”