When government announced a phased ban on secondhand clothes in 2015, few local tailors could have seen this as an opportunity to cash in, by moving to fill the void in the textile industry.
But progressively, they were encouraged by the different government initiatives which aimed at supporting the Made in Rwanda strategy and slowly, many started seeing at the bigger picture.
In 2016, Rwanda increased taxes on used clothes from $0.2 to $2.5 per kilogramme, as part of the broader strategy to phase out the importation of used clothes.
Three years down the road, local tailors now think this is their time and through an association, they are set to launch the largest garment factory that could satisfy garment demand from at least 20 districts of the whole country, according to leaders of the association.
Through their association, members have formed the Kigali Garment Centre.
According to Jerome Mugabo, the Director General of the company, they want to set up a mass production plant at the Gahanga semi-industrial zone located in Kicukiro District.
They intend to break ground for construction before the end of the year, according to Mugabo.
"We went through districts seeking shareholders. Out of 600 tailors from different cooperatives, companies and individuals who had expressed interest to buy into the company, 60 of them have already fulfilled the requirements for membership," he said.
We will be producing garments with similar quality as those imported from abroad, he added.
He added that the project was benchmarked on a similar mass production garments plant based in Turkey.
"We will use modern machines like those used at this factory. Now those who import from abroad will get the same garments from Rwanda, and cheaply he said.
He said that their projected startup capital is projected at Rwf2 billion adding that they have already procured some of the machines to be used, through the support of the Business Development Fund (BDF).
"Once full-scale production starts, per day, we target to produce 500 T-shirts, 600 trousers, 300 jeans, 1,500 polo shirts, and 2,500 round neck shirts," he said.
The factory also envisages making over 5,000 suits per month.
He said that mass production and incentives from government will bring down the production cost, which will lead to reduction of prices for the products they intend to make.
Creating 600 jobs
Mugabo told The New Times that Kigali Garment Factory will initially create 600 jobs of which 65 per cent will be the youth.
"We will also get support from Work Force Development Authority to organize professional training for the factory worker," he added.
The Director General of Rwanda Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) Kampeta Sayinzoga told The New Times that a study has been carried out to know gaps in textile industry so as to move tailoring workshops to industrial production.
"This will help reduce imports of clothes and second hand clothes and promote exports. We have not yet even satisfying a quarter of local market demand with our locally made clothes," she said.
According to Abdoul Razzak, a consultant who carried out study on textile and garments value chain technology, there is need to upgrade technology for efficiency adding that 90 per cent of current garment production in Rwanda still uses imported fabrics which increases prices on garments.
Other issues include lack of access to finance, technical expertise among many others.