The Government has committed itself to facilitate the establishment of several markets that would link local traders to those operating in neighbouring countries, especially Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
By establishing cross-border markets between Rwanda and neighbouring countries, the gap between the country’s formal and informal imports and exports will be reduced, the Minister for Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba has told Saturday Times.
As part of the cross border trade strategy, it is envisaged that markets should be built around border towns to facilitate trade.
Among the planned markets include Nemba in Bugesera District and Akanyaru in Nyaruguru District for trade with Burundi; Rusizi I in Rusizi District, Karongi (Karongi District), Rugari (Nyamasheke District), and Petite Barrière (Rubavu District) for trade with DR Congo.
Feasibility studies have been completed to determine the profitability and benefits of the markets, according to officials.
Local businesses are being encouraged to invest in the setting up of the infrastructure, with hopes that they would spur investment in these areas.
In an interview, on Wednesday, Minister Kanimba said; “So many traders are exporting goods informally. Some of them even have had run-ins with government institutions because their activities seemed suspicious. The markets will help to streamline cross-border trade and make it more beneficial for traders and the country.”
Official figures indicate that Rwanda’s informal exports to neighbouring countries in 2011 were higher than formal exports.
The volume for informal exports was estimated at Rwf33.2 billion compared to Rwf21.9 billion for formal exports, according to trade data released by the Ministry of Trade in 2012.
“We believe the markets will help increase the volumes of our formal exports while at the same time narrowing our trade gap,” he noted.
Among the envisaged cross-border markets to be built is the Akanyaru haut market, set to be constructed in Nyaruguru district at the Rwanda-Burundi border.
The place is seen as very strategic in terms of business opportunities considering the volume of goods that transit through the particular border.
Official figures indicate that last year, Akanyaru border officials recorded goods worth about Rwf1.2 billion that transited through the border.
“If this project is well elaborated and specifically owned by the business community, it is highly profitable,” Nyaruguru District mayor Francois Habitegeko said, encouraging local businesses to start thinking of their roles.
During discussions on the modalities to set up the market last Wednesday, some of the business owners expressed reservations over the cost involved.
Charles Kazungu, one of the businessmen, said the local business community was already focused on developing Kibeho centre which has been selected as the town of Nyaruguru.
He opted for a progressive investment, where by the market could be constructed in phases.
“That would help us develop both Kibeho and the [Kanyaru] border market,” he said.
Though the final evaluation of the total cost is yet to be complete, it is estimated that the construction of the border market would cost around Rwf1.3 billion. It would comprise warehouses, a multi-storied commercial complex with shops and offices, food commodities selling place, a motel and car park, among others.
“Studies have indicated that the money to be invested in these projects will be recovered within a short period of time,” Minister Kanimba said.