Rwanda: How the Industry Sector Evolved Over the Past Decade

The last ten years have seen a rise in the local production of goods and services. The decade was marked by the launch of goods Made-in-Rwanda.

The New Times assesses the evolution of the industry sector prior to and after the launch.

1. Light investment

According to the industrial survey (PDF file) published in 2011 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), the total added value in the sector was Rwf484 billion in 2010. Manufacturing accounted for 45 per cent.

The firms owned by Rwandans were 84 per cent.

The following year of 2012 was characterized by soft investment: Agaciro Development Fund and YouthConnekt - a Rwandan think tank was initiated to forge local solutions to local problems.

In 2014, however, a heavy textile manufacturer stepped on-board - C&H Garments, a Chinese apparel maker. With more than 1,000 workers, the firm is arguably one of the biggest private-sector employers in the country.

2. Made-in-Rwanda

All the thrill around Made-in-Rwanda (MIR) started in 2015 when the initiative launched. In the three years prior to the campaign, manufacturing investment was stagnant at Rwf323 billion for 2 consecutive fiscal years.

MIR campaign aimed at addressing the trade deficit by boosting local production and ensuring its competitiveness.

As a result, the government incentivized local entrepreneurs by scraping off taxes on imported raw material and increasing import tariffs on used clothes and footwear - a first step in the bold move to phase out importation of hand-me-downs.

At this time, over US$15 million were spent on the importation of second-hand clothes.

Another local manufacturer, Positivo BGH - a US$ 4 billion Latino IT company established a computer manufacturing plant in Masoro, Kigali. Now, two of their made-in-Rwanda models are common names among Rwandan teachers and university students.

3. Local solutions, global attention

In February 2016, the Private Sector Federation organized the first Made-in-Rwanda Expo - an exhibition solely by local manufacturers and industries to showcase their products. 107 exhibitors were registered but the number would triple up to 306 in the next exhibition held in December, the same year.

During this year, President Kagame flew the world's first drone for medical supplies delivery from Muhanga drone port. The project attracted the world's eyes and ears as it would soon reap off an accolade of 'Uber for blood'.

In 2017, a US$ 45 million worth food manufacturer, Africa Improved Foods started producing fortified foods in Kigali's Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The company is one of the largest nutrition factory sites on the continent.

4. Electric investment

MINICOM's figures for 2018 show that the contribution of the industry sector to the GDP was nearly Rwf1.5 trillion, up 49 per cent from 2015.

Moreover, with the three-year-old Made-in-Rwanda campaign, an average yearly rate of 17 per cent of export growth was recorded.

The same year was marked by the introduction of the first plant manufacturing cars in Rwanda. Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker opened an assembly facility worth US$20 million in June 2018.

The firm assembles models such as Passat, Teramont, Tiguan and Polo hatchback in a plant in Kigali SEZ, some of which are used through ride-hailing and car-sharing.

"In terms of investments, Rwanda surpassed the US$2 billion target for the first time in the country's history, with investments registered over US$2.006 billion in up from about US$400 million registered in 2010," Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board told The New Times this Monday.

On the edge of the 2010s, a step into the long-awaited Vision 2020, some electrified investments were realized. A quick trending instance is one of Africa's-first smartphone plant and electric cars. Other firms launched electric motorcycles as a US$35-million inland port in Kicukiro district was being opened.

In its fifth version, the Made-in-Rwanda Expo registered 468 exhibitors - more than a fourfold compared to the initial run.

Over 29 companies are already set up in the Kigali SEZ and others have set up in the other SEZs located country-wide, manufacturing products, most of which is exported after.

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