The recent store-to-store inspection made by officials from the Ministry of Trade and Commerce (MINICOM) revealed just how ignorant Kigali traders were about the law covering commerce.
The inspection carried out by MINCOM was part of a programme government is finally putting in plan to enhance entrepreneurship and business growth.
The exercise began with training workshops that the ministry carried out countrywide with the aim of sensitising business owners on the law governing internal trade in Rwanda.
The Kigali inspection MINICOM made, led by the minister herself Monique Nsanzaganwa, was meant to find out whether the law was being adhered to.
The team inspected business premises downtown; checking for trade licenses, printed invoices and price tags on goods. Those store owners found without these requirements were fined amounts ranging from Rwf 50,000 to Rwf100,000 depending on what was missing.
The minister told The New Times that the next step would be closing down businesses that failed to comply with MINICOM’s specified regulations.
This is a good step in developing behaviour that will lead to growth of business and transformation of the, hitherto, informal business to formal businesses.
However, the need for this kind of inspection poses a question of whether what is being done currently is good enough to achieve the kind of transformation that is needed.
The fact that business owners confessed that they didn’t know about the existence of such regulations posed. While the traders were obviously irresponsible, why didn’t MINCOM sensitive them more?
Business in Rwanda is faced with far bigger problems than the absence of price tags. The government and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) have to find a way to bring fundamental change in the business sector.
Our businesspersons lack entrepreneurship skills, business planning, ICT usage, and marketing skills. Many traders do not keep any accounting records or develop their products. This in turn reduces their competitiveness in the local market.
These fundamental problems mean that the government needs to do more than just inspecting these businesses and fining them. Basic policies and systems need to be put in place to ensure capacity building in the business community.
Business people need to be educated on the importance of adopting the basics if their businesses are to expand and develop. This can be done by setting up more centres that offer information to traders; these centres should train the businesspersons on business management and ICT usage.
Businesspersons should attempt to expand their horizons; they should look at our neighbouring countries such as Uganda and see how they operate their businesses, copying some relevant aspects their systems.
The PSF is trying to put in place systems that will curb some of these inefficiencies. It is developing a strategic plan that will help equip business with management and entrepreneurial skills to run their business better.
This, if implemented successfully will lead to a more friendly business environment, which will see local business flourish and also encourage both regional and international competitiveness.
Investing in capacity building will create more equipped businesses which will bring about improvement in production and better provision of services in the market. This will improve competitiveness in the markets and encourage more investment.