The Japanese embassy in Rwanda in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is conducting a validation workshop on the public-private partnership between Japanese SMEs and Rwanda. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has done a survey on needs for assistance in agriculture in developing countries (Rwanda included) by using techniques developed by Japanese SMEs.
Opening the one-day workshop, the Japanese Ambassador to Rwanda, Hatanaka Kunio, said that Japan has more than 4 million SMEs which constitute 66% of the country's businesses, and count for two thirds of the total employment. "Our SMEs are ready to help Rwandan ones through partnerships based on sharing the knowledge, skills, techniques and technologies," the ambassador said, adding that Japan recognizes SMEs as key to development.
"Rwanda is a landlocked country which suffers from the high cost of transport, and while the country's integration in the East African Community is expected to solve that the issue, I would advice Rwandan SMEs to produce highly value-added and light products," Hatanaka said, pointing out that heavy goods automatically increase transport costs thus reducing the profit margin for the producers. "With all that, you manage other ways of gaining benefits including raising prices which is not lasting when competing on the local and international markets."
The ambassador asked the SME community to present proposals in order for the embassy to help bring them close to the Japan SMEs community. "We'll introduce your proposals to SMEs in our country and with our partnership, ask them to provide some help, support and other levels of partnership to help develop the local small businesses community," Hatanaka said.
Eusebe Muhirika, the acting head of trade and manufacturing at RDB, said that Rwanda's SMEs currently face challenges of lack of management and technical skills, difficult access to adequate technologies, access to market and access to finance. "Partnerships like this one are what will eradicate those challenges."
He further promised Japanese development partners that RDB will help them to better understand Rwanda's small businesses community and help improve especially their technological capacities for increased competitiveness on the local, regional and international market. "Through such workshops, the Japanese SMEs experts will get to understand more the capacity and needs of the Rwandan SMEs," Muhirika said.