Rwanda: Informal Traders Buoyant Over Rusizi One Stop Border Post

2 December 2021

Plans to construct a One-Stop-Border post in Rusizi, Rwanda has stimulated optimism among informal cross-border traders, particularly women.

The border connects the towns of Rusizi in Rwanda and Bukavu in DR Congo.

On Tuesday November 30, officials from Rwanda and DR Congo laid a foundation stone, paving way for the construction of a $22 million One Stop Border Post known as Rusizi II.

Informal cross-border traders have welcomed the project which comes as cross- border trade is starting to rebound from the Covid-19 effects, but they appealed for more support to accelerate recovery of the businesses.

"We need to be facilitated to move freely because when our travel documents expire, we halt our cross-border businesses for some days to process new documents," said Deborah Nyiraminani, a Rwandan informal cross-border trader, who exports fresh vegetables and flour to DR Congo.

She appealed for special incentives to drive a full recovery of informal exports.

Every day, the Rusizi-Bukavu border is crossed by over 12,000 informal traders and 150 cargo cars including trucks.

However, the outbreak of Covid-19 fuelled a drop in traffic to between 6,000 and 7,000 traders. The traffic for cargo cars dropped to between 70 and 100 daily.

Nyiraminani said that the revamped border post would facilitate local traders to tap into the huge Congolese market.

Women make up between 75 per cent and 80 per cent of the Rwandan informal traders who exports goods to Bukavu through Rusizi.

And for Drocelle Uwineza, another woman informal cross-border trader, the pandemic has eroded their capital and hence the need for support.

Francois Habitegeko, the Governor of Western Province, urged traders to exploit the good relations between Rwanda and DR Congo as well as the existing regional trading bodies.

He said that One Stop Border Post will ease movements of traders.

"Rwanda and DRC are both members of CEPGL and now DRC is likely to join the East African Community. This means a lot and such infrastructure on borders are needed to ease trade. Traders should know the products we have that are needed by Congolese," he said.

CEPGL is a French acronym for the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries.

He added that as Africa is working to operationalize African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). And such a move by countries means a lot to businesses, he added.

DR Congo major export market for Rwandan products

According to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB, in 2019 Rwanda generated $372 million from her exports to DR Congo, accounting for 32 per cent of the country's total foreign exchange earnings.

However, the value dropped to $88 million in 2020 owing to the outbreak of Covid-19, which prompted border closures.

Some 65.7 per cent of Rwanda's vegetable exports are shipped to DR Congo, according to NAEB.

At least 30 per cent of the exports go through the Rusizi border.v

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