Rwanda: Private Sector Optimistic as President Suluhu Visits

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu's two-day State visit kicked off on Monday August 2, with members of the private sector saying that this is an opportunity for both countries to make the thriving business between the two countries even better.

The Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam handles over 85 percent of the cargo destined or transiting through Rwanda, a route that is commonly known as the Central Corridor.

According to statistics, Rwanda exports $295m worth of goods to Tanzania making the East African country its biggest import partner after China, UAE, Saudi Arabia and India.

On its part, Tanzania sends goods worth $523m making Rwanda.

Some challenges

For people like Zaharah Uwicyeza, a wholesaler in the apparel industry, President Suluhu's visit is an opportunity for Rwanda to support its business community and seek intervention over cargo that is currently being held at the Dar es Salaam port over what she calls "Covd-19 fines."

Uwicyeza says that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that her suppliers in China, where the virus was first reported, were unable to share the necessary documentation to clear the goods in Dar es Salaam in a timely manner.

By the time the goods were ready for clearance, Rwanda was also placed under lockdown. As a result, the goods were delayed at the port and accrued hefty fines.

"Paying the fines is impossible because the amount required is equal to what I paid to purchase the entire container. We have all been affected by this pandemic and most of us are almost out of business," she said.

The Head of the Chamber of Commerce in the Private Sector Federation (PSF), Joseph Akumuntu confirmed to The New Times in a telephone interview that about 185 containers of goods destined for Rwanda are being held at the port and are soon to be auctioned.

"We would like to request President Samia Suluhu Hassan's intervention in the matter because auctioning off these containers will put many traders out of business and affect many jobs and livelihoods," he said.

He explained that to avoid such inconveniences, Rwanda should capitalise on Suluhu's visit to lobby for the duration that cargo destined for Rwanda can stay at the port to increase from the current 14 days to at least 30 days as it is done for other countries in the region.

However, Akumuntu, who also doubles as the Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Association of Petroleum Products Importers, applauded the cordial bilateral relations between Rwanda and Tanzania which he said enabled business between the two countries to flourish.

"Over 90 per cent of the goods that are imported to Rwanda come through the Dar es Salam port. This means that in a day, we have between 350 and 450 trucks going and coming through the Rusumo border-post. There is a lot of money involved," he said.

Akumuntu said that while business is flourishing between the two countries, there are still challenges faced by Rwandans that seek to do business in Tanzania.

For instance, he said that for a Rwandan to open a business, he is required to have a majority shareholder who must be a Tanzanian national.

"Not only are you required to have a majority shareholder who must be Tanzanian, he or she must also lead the company. This coupled with difficulties in acquiring a working permit is challenging for many Rwandans interested in setting up business there," he said.

The President of the Rwanda-Tanzania Friendship Association (RWATAFA) John Musemakweli says that there are ongoing talks between business entities from both countries to build warehouses near the Rwandan border to ease doing business between the two countries.

RWATAFA aims at strengthening the existing relationship between Rwanda and Tanzania through cultural and social-economic activities.

"Not everyone needs to travel all the way to Dar es Salaam to import goods. We are looking at ways how district authorities near the border can provide land where warehouses can be built and the cargo is brought directly there for clearance. It can make business move faster," he said.

According to the programme, on Tuesday, the two Heads of State are expected to visit several companies in various sectors including the Special Economic Zone which is home to 120 companies with activities ranging from manufacturing, agro-processing and education among others.

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