Following the new programme that aims to strengthen women’s economic capacity by providing more access to credit and enabling them to start income generating projects, more women have participated in this year’s Expo as compared to previous years.
Rwanda’s Central Bank has been given the responsibility to identify beneficiaries. The women who have benefited most are those who run coffee farms, shops, agribusinesses and those in the tourism business.
Annette Mutesi is one of the happy beneficiaries of these loans. One cannot help but stop at her stall.
The size of her cassava, the neat arrangement, and the smile she gives her customers makes her stall more crowded than others. A mother of three, Mutesi’s farm in Nyagatare has become her soul bread winner.
Two of her children are in school as a result of her savings and the Expo has increased her income too.
“I received a loan from Bank Populaire two months ago. It has enabled me to have a stall at the Expo,” Mutesi said.
According to Mutesi, this year’s Expo has been far more impressive than the others.
“Surprisingly Rwandans are very proud of their own achievements. I am glad to say that I get at least five customers a day to buy my farm produce,” she said.
“I will now pay the loan faster than anticipated and will then borrow more money for a bigger business,” she added.
Mutesi is happy to be among other women who have travelled long distances as far as Ghana, Egypt and other parts of East Africa to exhibit at the expo.
‘Alfie Designs’ is a Ghanaian based company that deals in elegant women clothing designs. It has become one of the biggest women attractions since the expo started.
As she showcases Ghana’s elegant style in Kitenge garments, Afi Nyarko said she has been in the business for 22 years. They specialize in designing and tailoring already manufactured fabric from Ghana.
“I have been working hand in hand with a renowned fabric making company Woodin in Ghana since 1993,” Nyarko said.
After signing contracts with the fabric making companies as their designer, she organizes and runs their fashion shows.
“I am a designer and I hope to establish textile companies or get connected to individuals I can work with here in Rwanda,” she added.
According to Nyarko, she was given two options by Rwanda Revenue Authority on arrival. Either to pay taxes for all her goods or to pay for what she has sold after the Expo.
“I am so grateful that taxes have been reduced. This way I do not stand a chance of getting losses since I will only pay little tax for the goods sold only,” Nyarko said.
Behind Nyarko’s stall, a significant leather stocked stall stands proud. All the way from Egypt, Gad Nour, is a proud owner of his business, Nour Egypt Limited.
The company manufactures pure leather products that range from shoes, jackets, wallets and many more. Unfortunately for Nour, he said that at this year’s Expo, business has started off at a low.
“I cannot compare this year to the previous ones. This is because my new stock has been delayed by the Ethiopian Airline that I used to travel with. Now I have been selling last year’s stock,” disappointed, Nour said.
Nour is a member of COMESA (Common Markets of Eastern and Southern Africa). He said this has been the best thing that has ever happened for his business since he does not pay duty tax.
Among the challenges he mentioned, was that he noticed that customers do not have as much money as the previous years.
“My leather products do not come cheaply however, I have noticed that this year, the company that will take home a fortune will be Bralirwa,” he predicted jokingly.
Nour further congratulated women for their massive turn out during this year’s Expo. He urged them to make sure they attend the Burundi Trade Expo as well which is set to begin immediately after the one in Rwanda.
Like all other women Joy Kamiti, a Kenyan exhibitor can now bring more stock from Kenya. Reason being, the Rwandan government reduced taxes on all East African goods from 30 percent to 7 percent.
“I supply to curio shops in Rwanda and have been doing so since 2007. I have made good profits this year because taxes have been reduced,” Kamiti said.
According to Kamiti, the Expo has favoured her because she has made up to a good Rwf 500,000 in one day.
The tax reduction, according to Kamiti has seen more Kenyans participate vigilantly because they can afford the USD 1350 they were charged per stall.
“This has also made it possible for us to employ more than one translator incase of language barriers. As a result we are creating job opportunities for the young boys and girls,” Kamiti added.
Ntaganda Emmy, one of Kamiti’s translators is more than happy to take home Rwf 4000 each day.
“I have no complaints whatsoever to make this year a success,” Ntaganda said.