The government is incentivizing the production of face masks by local producers in a bid facilitate mass production as well as affordability.
Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health announced that henceforth, it will be mandatory for people to wear masks whenever they step out of their homes in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Consequently, 24 companies have so far received approval to produce and sell face masks.
To further ensure that the firms can meet the demand and retail the masks at affordable costs, the government is considering incentivizing operations in the sector.
Rwanda Development Board and the Ministry of Trade are among the agencies involved in the review of incentives.
Clare Akamanzi the RDB Chief Executive told The New Times that after consultation with some of the firms, they were engaging agencies in the Economic Cluster accessing possibilities for removal Value Added Tax which would reduce cost of the products in retail.
Akamanzi also noted that they were in talks and negotiations with potential partners to support the businesses producing the masks to be able to reduce costs and manage demand.
The partners could work with them in multiple aspects including ways such as availing capital and creating distribution avenues.
The RDB Chief Executive noted that by giving the 22 firms sole access to the local market, it was in itself a huge incentive as the firms can then make a case to financiers to access capital for operations.
The incentives, Akamanzi said, are aimed at ensuring that the masks are priced at below Rwf 500 to ensure affordability across the country.
She added that they would keep pursuing avenues that could see the retail costs as low as Rwf100 ensuring that members of the public can easily comply with the directives.
Soraya Hakuziyaremye the Minister of Trade and Industry said that local manufactures of Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks will be facilitated on aspects such as access to raw material and machines, regular tax exemptions on customs duty and VAT as well as access cargo transport for access to raw materials in close collaboration with RwandAir
The expected daily production for local producers is estimated at 290,000 pieces a day.
The ministry noted that the retail price of the masks is not expected to exceed Rwf 500 per piece.
"A broader facilitation package is being finalized for all manufacturers and businesses hit by the global pandemic. The Special Fund will also be launched in May," Hakuziyaremye said.
A majority of firms who spoke to The New Times commenced operations on Monday, 20th April with plans to increase production capacities in coming days.
With Rwanda's population estimated at over 12 million citizens and residents, unofficial estimates put required masks at over 15 million if all Rwandans are to have masks taking into account ownership of over one mask by some as well as replacements over time.
Local production of the masks will, among other things, reduce the dependence on imports which have also been problematic.
Some economic blocs have put restrictions on exports of medical equipment outside their bloc to meet their demand needs.
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