The 20th edition of the annual East African Community Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) trade fair, officially known as Jua Kali/Nguvu Kazi Exhibition kicked off on Monday December 16, at Gikondo Expo Grounds in Kigali.
The exhibition, held since 1999, aims to promote micro, small and medium enterprise formally known as the JuaKali/Nguvu Kazi sector of the regional economy.
This year's exhibition brings together 860 exhibitors from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.
The main merchandise on sale is; textile, footwear, children's toys and furniture, among others, exclusively made in East Africa.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye told the exhibitors to aim higher and scale up to bigger companies.
"Our SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) need to scale up. We want you to grow and scale up quickly so that you can be large enterprises in the future, but also be competitive not only regionally, but also on a continental level."
She further explained that the MSMEs comprise 94 percent of Rwanda's economy.
Steven D. M. Mlote, the Deputy Secretary General of EAC in charge of planning, infrastructure, finance and Administration, said East Africa is the primary market for MSME's.
"With geographical area of approximately 2.8 kilometers and a population of 170 million, East Africa is not only a vast market for MSMEs, but has unlimited potential that awaits exploitation."
He added that it is through research and development that MSMEs understand customer needs, and produce to satisfy them.
Jean Baptist Hakizimana is a Rwandan who operates business in Kenya and Rwanda.
This time, he is in the Kenyan pavilion, selling ovens that are powered by charcoal.
"You can roast chicken, goat, and bake cakes and bread. We have one that bakes up to 200 cakes at a go, another makes 60, and another makes 30."
"We hope we can get customers, so we call sell everything off", he told The New Times.
Jackson Lagu from South Sudan is selling mosquito repelling candles, hand and body lotion and hair ointment.
"The candle is a concoction of; eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender oil. Another is coconut oil; its primary ingredient is coconut. The other is hair cream, made from petroleum jelly and shea butter."
He told The New Times that he hopes to get business partners to cooperate or integrate with him to expand his business.
The trade fair was organised through the partnership of the EAC Secretariat, the East African Confederation of Informal Sector Organization (EACISO), in collaboration with EAC Partner States.
Other officials present for the opening included; Olivier Nduhungirehe, Minister of state in charge of EAC affairs, Robert Bapfakurera, chairman of the Private Sector Federation (PSF), Jackson Mandago and Alex Tolgos, Governors of counties in Kenya, among other dignitaries.
Tags:Jua Kali expoMinister of Trade and IndustryEACPSF