President Paul Kagame has urged tea producers and dealers across Africa to add value to tea products in order to play a greater role in the continent's socio-economic development.
He was speaking yesterday at the ongoing second Tea Convention and Exhibition in Kigali.
Kagame also called for reduced dependence on foreign markets urging expansion of domestic tea consumption.
Organisers say the event, held under the auspices of the East African Tea Trade Association, provides an opportunity for stakeholders to share experiences and learn from each other.
Participants include industry experts, agriculture input suppliers, practitioners, researchers and scholars, as well as financiers, investors, logistic and warehousing experts.
Kagame said there was a bright future for the tea market both in Africa and beyond the continent where more than 90 per cent of Africa's teas are consumed.
"We must remain aligned to the important sectors in foreign exchange earnings generating direct and indirect employment to millions of our people," he said.
Highlighting the potential for the African market given the continent's fast growing population, the President challenged tea dealers to get more involved with marketing their teas to African consumers and investing more in processing activities.
"Clearly, the market exists. We need to produce more," he told the delegates, underlining the importance of tea to the world's economy.
Kagame also rooted for new technologies in growing, processing, packaging, and selling Africa's teas, adding that it would bring much more money to those who are involved in the tea business.
"We can do better and benefit more," he said.
The President decried the fact that Rwandans consume less than two per cent of the tea they produce, urging them to consume more.
Tea remains the country's second main cash crop after coffee.
Kagame pledged government's support to investors in the country's tea sector, with view to help them realise their potential.
The second Tea Convention and Exhibition also provided an opportunity for cupping competitions and companies from nine African countries to compete for best specialty teas and best black CTC teas.
Some of the winners in first class of specialty teas include Rwanda's Sorwathe tea factory which emerged as the producer of the best green tea.
All the first winners in the category of black CTC teas are also Rwandan factories. They include Kitabi tea factory (best D1 tea grade and best BP1 tea grade), Karongi tea factory (best PD grade), as well as Gisovu tea factory (best PF1 tea grade).
"The competitions have shown that Rwanda has quality tea. What we need now is to increase its quantity," said Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Agriculture minister.
She said the government plans to expand tea plantations in the western part of the country which will include planting tea on some 20,000 hectares of land.
"We will take advantage of our country's natural environment because that's what is really giving us the high-quality teas," she said in an interview.