Rwanda is looking to increase its exports base by 17 per cent annually. The revelation was made Wednesday by Trade and Industry Minister, Vincent Munyeshyaka, during the 3rd National Exporters' Conference in Kigali.
The conference brought together different development stakeholders in trade, including government institutions, private sector and other business partners.
"This is indeed a very interactive platform for discussion from which key constraints that slow down export growth and new opportunities to increase exports are discussed.
Recommendations are formulated to come up with mitigating strategies to ensure that constraints to export promotion are not only alleviated, but also to make sure that the business community is taking advantage of opportunities that are existing in our economy," Munyeshyaka said.
Statistics on Rwanda's trade performances on exports in 2017 indicate that Rwanda exported over 7000 tons in 2017, according to Steven Ruzibiza, the CEO of the Private Sector Federation.
The feasibility of the government's exports' growth targets will be sustained by reducing the cost of doing business and facilitate trade by implementing different key designed business projects.
"We not only want to increase exports but we also try to see if we can have some import substitutions and the progress of the trend is quite encouraging although more efforts are needed to reach our potential," he added.
The export performance on goods and services has gone up by 8 per cent in the last seven years, from 10 per cent in 2010 to 18 per cent in 2017, with only services, largely dominated by tourism, contributing 15 per cent comparing to goods' contribution at 21 per cent.
In 2017 itself, Rwanda's exports had an impressive growth at 32 per cent from diversification on Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE), flowers, services and favorable commodity prices.
However, the challenges remain in overreliance of traditional exports, and low interregional trade besides lack of proper infrastructure, transport cost, production cost, market access cost and access to finance that need proper and kind attention in solution formulation.
To address these challenges, some of the projects lined up to be implemented in the future include an appropriate railway connection and initiate construction, the construction of 800 km of national asphalt roads, operationalizing Kigali Logistics Platform, bonded warehouses and work with private sector to develop international transport and logistics companies.
Other projects include the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of 3000 km feeder roads, construction of new modern cross border markets and mini ports in Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Karongi and Rubavu Districts to facilitate cross border trade as well as the construction and development of industrial parks in provinces in addition to the expansion of the Kigali Special Economic Zone with capacity to accomodate 350 companies operating therein by 2024.
The government also plans to scale up and reform export growth fund to increase access to finance for exporters in addition to building potential partnerships with regional exporters to share some business opportunities and draw some lessons from them and share experience with export champions.
While bilateral regional negotiated agreement and African continental Free Trade area are in process.
Minerals and tea and coffee exports are the most exported products on the international market, but PSF's Ruzibiza said that more efforts were needed to attract investments into agro-processing, construction materials, light manufacturing, meat and dairy, leather, textiles and garments , horticulture, tourism (including MICE tourism), knowledge-based services, logistics and transport.
"We need to make sure that exports in other areas like services are enhanced and we can achieve this as long as we continue to closely work with the government and see how best we can exploit the Export Growth Fund"
To achieve the government's exports growth targets, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has designed key strategic interventions including the progressive promotion of 'Made in Rwanda' brand by working with the private sector to recapture at least USD 400 million of imports by 2024.