The first ever Rwanda- Uganda business forum opened in Kampala yesterday with participants underscoring the need to shift from trading among the business communities of both countries to production if economic growth is to be achieved.
The forum, which attracted over 400 business people, was organised by the Rwandan High Commission in Uganda.
It ran under the theme, 'Expanding business opportunities beyond borders.'
The meeting presented an opportunity for the traders to meet with policy makers, who included the Ministers of Trade and heads of investment authorities of both countries.
The Minister of Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba underscored the value of trade cooperation between Rwanda and Uganda.
He said in 2011, 50 percent of Rwandan trade passed through Gatuna border in Uganda with a total of 18,380 trucks, carrying foods worth close to 1billion USD.
He, however, added that the full potential of bilateral trade hadn't yet been met due to a number of constraints that include the cost of time of crossing borders and the unsuitable infrastructure that can't meet export opportunities.
Uganda's Trade Minister, Amelia Kyambadde, stressed the need to focus on areas of production efforts by Rwanda and Uganda, to reduce on importation of products that can be locally manufactured.
"Let us set up industrial projects under a private public partnership arrangement between our two countries. We need to invest into bigger ventures like exploration of minerals which we haven't tapped into because they are capital intensive," she said.
Claire Akamanzi, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) called on Ugandan investors to tap opportunities in Rwanda in sectors like entertainment, agriculture, tourism, mining, and energy.
"If you look at our internal taxes, you will be at home because it is very much similar in terms of rates," she said.
"We have also streamlined our financial sector, today we have an online credit reference bureau, both private and public and this has made it easier for creditors to access information on time," Akamanzi added.
Uganda's High Commissioner to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero noted that with the borders of both countries opening 24 hours, trade volumes had significantly increased.
Rwanda's High Commissioner to Uganda, Frank Mugambage highlighted that the issue of non tariff barriers still dogs trade in the region with estimates that traders incur costs of between 30 - 40 percent of all trade costs to the barriers.
Poor infrastructure and existing non tariff barriers were cited among the main challenges to trade, in a debate by a panel of discussants from the private sectors of both countries.