Local manufacturers have been urged to respond to consumer demands during the 2017 Made-in-Rwanda trade exhibition.
The Made-in-Rwanda Expo was officially opened yesterday at Gikondo Expo Grounds in Kicukiro District with government urging manufacturers to embrace innovative technologies and value addition to meet customer expectations.
The expo, organised by the Private Sector Federation in partnership with Ministry of Trade and Industry, gives an opportunity to Rwandan manufacturers to showcase what they can do and their production potential to satisfy local market as government seeks to increase exports and bridge the import gap.
About 450 firms from all sectors of the economy are participating in the trade show, more than 300 entities that exhibited in 2016.
Vincent Munyeshyaka, the trade and industry minister, said there is need for more value addition to boost consumption of locally-made products.
Munyeshyaka said government is counting on locally-made products not only to reduce import bills but also boost exports.
"It is very important if Rwanda is to achieve sustainable economic development but also grow its exports to an annual average of 28 per cent as prescribed under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy blue print," he said.
The minister reaffirmed government's commitment to continue working with the private sector to ensure locally-made products are of good quality and affordable.
"We will continue working on strategies that will help bring down the cost of production to make you more competitive," Munyeshaka told producers.
Statistics from the National Bank of Rwanda confirm the impact of Made-in-Rwanda campaign.
The central bank estimates government has managed to reduce its import bills by more than 17.2 per cent this year alone thanks to a reduction in the importation of construction materials.
The Government is working with stakeholders to address challenges faced by the industrial sector to help reduce the cost of production in the country.
Benjamin Gasamagera, the chairperson of Private Sector Federation, said the initiative is already paying off.
According to Gasamagera, the private sector is already working hard to meet it's target of ensuring import bill is reduced by 50 per cent by 2020 through local production.
"We are therefore very confident that through Made-in-Rwanda campaign this ambitious target will become a practical reality," he said, adding that encouraging consumption of locally made products will help create more jobs, especially for the youth.
"It will also enhance Rwanda's competitive edge globally."
It is almost two years since government launched Made-in-Rwanda campaign to help promote consumption of locally-made products.
To support consumption of locally manufactured products, government is currently reviewing the law on public procurement as one of the strategies to boost local production but also reduce on its import bill.
Once enacted, the law is expected to greatly give local manufacturers a competitive advantage thus increasing production.
Challenges still remain
Meanwhile, despite the positive expectations from the private sector, local manufacturers said they are still faced with bottlenecks including, high electricity tariffs, high cost of raw materials, transport and logistics, among other challenges that have made it difficult for the entities to make profits.
However, the minster reassured the business community on government's relentless efforts to address the challenges.
Meanwhile, Nelly Chomoro, a shoe-maker, said business is still slow, adding that most people are only bargaining without buying.
However, expogoers at the United Deaf Women Cooperative's stall said the turn up was fair so far and hoped to get more customers for their handicrafts, including handbags priced from Rwf2,500 to Rwf10,000 each. Their hand-made sweaters go for Rwf7,000.
First-time exhibitor, Florence Nyiranizima, said she will use the trade fair as a platform to market her Africa-fabric handbags and clothes.