President Paul Kagame has called on members of the business community from Rwanda and Uganda to strengthen trade linkages and exploit the opportunities available in both countries.
The Head of State was speaking last evening at a gala dinner hosted in the honour of the Uganda-Rwanda business forum, which ended yesterday in Kigali.
The meeting held under the theme "Linking opportunities and investors" brought together hundreds of business leaders in the areas of banking, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, education and real estate from both countries to promote trade, investments, and enhance bilateral partnerships between the two states.
"It's pertinent that we meet and discuss how we can strengthen business ties between our two countries; we are here to explore fresh investment opportunities and establish new partnerships," the President noted.
Kagame observed that the trade between the two countries is not new; it's a continuation of what has been going on for a very long time.
"Rwandans and Ugandans have been doing business with each other long before the two countries became modern states at the level they are today," he said, calling on the two nations to continue the tradition
The President observed that the meeting and discussions at the forum will generate concrete and implementable actions that will foster the growth of trade and investment in the region.
The Head of State pointed out that historically, African nations have focused beyond the continent as the main source of trade and investment opportunities.
"The intra-African trade points to immense opportunities for countries like Rwanda, Uganda and other East African Partner states; we need to strengthen our trade linkages. We are already seeing that hopefully we can move faster than where we are," Kagame said.
Kagame observed: If you look at figures in the last five years, the total trade between Rwanda and Uganda almost doubled from $158 million to $241 million, as we understand our own situation what we should be having should be much higher than this."
He added: "This money may be in some individual pockets, the two countries cannot be at this level if we did what we ought to do. I think we can do much better than this."
He stated that, given the recent strong economic performance in both two nations in many sectors and how healthy and resilient the economies are increasingly becoming, $241 million was still low.
"We have seen average Gross Domestic Product growth of between 6 percent and 8 per cent for both of our countries and consequently lives of our people have improved. In Rwanda one million people were lifted out of poverty in five years. Moving forward we will increasingly realise that opportunities and solutions for economic growth lie within ourselves and reach."
The President explained that the East African market is a key component of the future and regional investment that will drive its development.
Kagame advised that much more needs to be done especially in investment, adding that if you look at 2012, the Ugandan private sector injected $30 million worthy of investment into the Rwandan economy, but this should be much higher.
He hailed business leaders from both sides for dedicating their time to deliberat on policies and opportunities that catalyse more engagements.
"Rwandans and Ugandans have a wealth of similar investment opportunities across many sectors, some that are waiting to be explored. For Uganda there is the most recent significant discovery of oil which will positively impact Uganda's economy and that of the region."
"We share tourism resources like the Virunga Massif, a home to mountain gorillas one of the world's endangered species. I am confident that we can share experience and expertise in agri-business, agro-processing, manufacturing, tourism and ICT, financial services and I encourage business leaders from our two countries to seriously engage with one another and increase the pace," Kagame emphasised.
He noted that fora are very useful and have taken place before and many more are coming in the near future, however the question should always be what the fora have yielded.
Kagame added: "At the end of the day it's not how many meetings and fora we have had, it is how much have we made in the progress that should also directly impact the lives of our people and wealth of our countries."
"To ensure that this happens that is why we developed several areas of cooperation ranging from trade and commerce, security, education, ICT, health, tourism and technical and cultural cooperation."
The President said that Rwanda and Uganda governments are committed to sustain the expansion and integration of economic activities for social-economic development of the nationals.
"We should continue to tap the benefits accruing from the East African Community common market assuring free movement of goods, labour and services, capital, the right of residence and establishment of business among others which is essential for the growth of the private sector."