The New Times (Kigali)

22 August 2011

Rwanda: Cross Border Trade Surges to RWF 40 Million

Rwanda's overlooked informal cross border trade fetched over Rwf 40m in a period of one year in both exports and imports indicating 2 percent and 20.2 per cent of the country's total imports and exports, respectively.

Head of Statistics department at Central Bank Viviane Mwitirehe, said that total informal trade with neighboring countries were dominated by food and livestock products representing 75.5 percent imports, 80.7percent exports and 77.1percent of total trade.

The informal cross border Trade(ICBT) captures unrecorded trade transactions in goods along Rwanda's borders with neighboring countries that are not recorded in official customs data.

Mwitirehe further noted that Rwanda's position under this unrecorded trade within the East African Community (EAC) bloc registered higher import receipts of over Rwf 9 billion compared to Rwf 5 billion as exports indicating a trade deficit of Rwf 3billion. Whilst Uganda dominated Rwanda's total imports within the region with over Rwf 5billion, Congo strived to balance export receipts with Rwf 22 billion. "The cross border trade between Rwandan and the neighbouring countries is very dynamic", the minister of Trade and industry Francois Kanimba said. Kanimba while speaking during a workshop that brought together authorities and stakeholders involved in informal cross border trade in Kigali on Saturday said that informal trade has greatly contributed a lot towards trade receipts.

"This trade has thrived without much efforts from Government, this means that when we put clear strategies to develop this trade, we are very likely to see a bigger increase our trade volumes", he said The minister further revealed that Rwanda has identified potential markets in Central Africa and the South Sudan adding efforts are in place to exploit them. "We are going to organise trade tours in the next few months to South Sudan to access the market opportunities there", he said adding that Rwanda's surplus food production will help supply the East African region that is currently short of food.

Nevertheless, the country's ambitious trade boost is still hampered by low value of exports, lack of logistics as well as un harmonised border tariffs.

However, the minister said that there are plans to organise a meeting with Congolese authorities to discuss urgent issues of security as well as tax administration negotiations adding that the regional ties such as the EAC, COMESA will iron out barriers to trade.

Tharcise Nzayiremya, the district commercial and investments officer in Gicumbi District said that lack of market infrastructure is hampering the informal cross border trade as traders from neighbouring countries are unable to access products from their Rwandan counterparts.

Director General in charge of Investment Climate At The Ministry Of Trade, Kaliza Karuretwa, noted that stakeholders recommended border markets to be built with the ownership of local leaders to strengthen the private public partnership amongst trading countries along common borders.

She added that her ministry is to design a cross border trade policy and strategy to be presented to Cabinet with Ministerial instructions to address current bottlenecks in cross border trade.

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