Christophe Bazivamo, the Deputy Secretary General of East African Community (EAC) has urged the Rwandan private sector to leverage opportunities that are available in the region, by improving standards of their products as a way of expanding their businesses and increasing revenues on the regional and global market.
He was speaking, on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 during the closing of the three-day retreat that had attracted over 450 recently PSF elected leaders from across the country.
"Rwanda private sector should first consider the market available in the East African Community while preparing their business plans," he said.
The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of six partner states, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC, which joined recently.
"Some measures to facilitate free movement of businesses in the East African Community include the use of national identity cards while travelling in the region. People can call to and from Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda and this is part of the steps to ease doing business, cooperation and integration," he said.
One of the investment and market opportunities in the region, he said, is available in agribusiness.
"We carried out an assessment and realised that 70 percent of factories in EAC are agro-processing industries while others manufacture agro-inputs and equipment used in farming. The assessment indicated that 65 percent of cross border trade products are agricultural products in the EAC region," he noted.
However, if the products from agro-processing industries and crop production have no quality, it could affect tapping into regional and cross-border trade markets, he said.
"We should not export substandard products. Consumers need products with quality. But there is still a gap in terms of products' quality. The private sector should be aware that lack of quality standards could sink them into losses when they are rejected on the market," he said.
Bazivamo cited a scenario where, due to aflatoxin in 2020, over 400 tonnes of maize produce from Uganda were rejected while crossing to Kenya.
"The private sector should improve the quality and quantity of what they produce so that they sell themselves on regional and international markets," he noted.
He also urged the private sector in agribusiness to ensure better post-harvest handling.
"In East African Community, post-harvest losses are at 30 percent. This needs to be addressed by the private sector so that their revenues increase if they need to explore different markets," he said.
Monique Mukaruliza, the strategic advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MINAFETT) assured the private sector that the country is putting more efforts in terms of economic diplomacy to facilitate Rwandan businesses in doing cross-border and international trade.
"We have signed different agreements to eliminate double taxation. This is a big opportunity for Rwandan businesses and investors coming to Rwanda," she said.
Double taxation is a tax principle referring to income taxes paid twice on the same source of income. It occurs when the same income is taxed in two different countries.
Avoidance of double taxation is an agreement between two countries aimed at avoiding or minimising territorial double taxation of the same income by the two countries.
Views and resolutions
Jean-Claude Shirimpumu, the vice chairperson of agriculture cluster in PSF at national level told The New Times that the new PSF leadership should assess the current contribution of agriculture to economic development, the gaps presentand what both farmers and agro-processing industries need.
"It is time to assess our current role in economic development and where we should be putting more efforts. We have understood that tapping into outside markets is needed. But small businesses should also put their efforts together for big investments but they need support, they need investment," he said.
As cluster for agriculture in PSF leadership, we have realised that there is need for investing more in producing our own food in the country and export it, instead of relying on imports. But this needs both private sector and government efforts to set standards and help SMEs grow and reach required standards, he noted.
He noted that small livestock sectors such as piggery and poultry farming, need revamping adding that without facilities to add value, farmers could find it hard earning tangible profits.
"After the retreat, we realised that farmers should be in investment groups so that they join their efforts to be able to get sustainable market both in Rwanda and beyond," he added.
Francois Gasana, The Chairman of service cluster in Gasabo district added that there is still a gap that must be filled so that PSF becomes able to boost economic development.
"Businesses should have trust in one another, to be able to join efforts because in business you can't develop alone," he said.
Some businesses' views during the retreat included concerns about high interest rates, and small traders in rural areas that lack access to financing.
Among the resolutions taken at the retreat to respond to private sector challenges include strong partnership between private and public institutions to pave the way for effective advocacy to address raised challenges.
The resolutions also include intellectual properties registration, empowering businesses in a way that they be able to exploit opportunities in EAC, Africa and the rest of the continent, collective investments, supporting SMEs with special packages, revamping transport of goods, supporting private sector in agriculture cluster with irrigation, harvesting and storing facilities.
They also included setting up a fund that will help PSF members to afford medical treatment as well as embracing technology to improve service delivery.