Rwandan firms look to diversify into new overseas markets

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Rwandan firms look to diversify into new overseas markets
Rwandan firms look to diversify into new overseas markets

Africa-Press – Rwanda. A delegation of 56 Rwandan business leaders visited the Central African Republic (CAR) last April and soon after formed a company, the Investissement Futur de l’Afrique (IFA) Ltd, as they looked to tap into opportunities there.

The firm put in place a leadership structure, acquired office premises and set about starting operations in a wide range of areas such as agriculture and mining.

“We are trying to strategize on how to benefit, in an orderly manner, from the opportunities being offered by different countries to the Rwandan business community,” said Theoneste Ntagengerwa, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) Spokesperson. In this regard, he said, one activity being implemented is the trade missions to these welcoming countries.

Diego Twahirwa, a young Rwandan entrepreneur in agribusiness. He landed a deal to supply 50,000 tonnes of dried chili worth $100 million to China (Courtesy)

Trade missions have always been done to promote Rwandan exports, but about five years ago, there was a shift towards helping Rwandans to invest abroad.

Rwandan business delegations have been to China, Turkey and elsewhere and more trips are expected in other countries in the future. PSF, with support from government, also opened a multi-service centre in the Republic of Congo.

President Faustin-Archange Touadéra who visited Rwanda last August welcomed and promised to facilitate Rwandan entrepreneurs willing to invest in his country.

In CAR, Rwandan investors will enjoy incentives such as tax holidays of up to 10-years if they invest in rural areas and three years if they invest in urban areas. The national carrier, RwandAir, now operates flights to the capital, Bangui.

Trade and business opportunities there are plentiful as the vast natural resource-rich country is blessed with unexploited arable land and forestry resources.

According to reports, roughly, a third of CAR’s nearly 623,000 square kilometres is suitable for farming yet only about three per cent is under cultivation.

Jeanne Mubiligi, Investissement Futur de l’Afrique’s executive, said: “We started our company in April last year, and we got an opportunity in gold mining. That was our first investment, small scale gold mining, but there are plenty of other opportunities being considered.”

Mubiligi added: “There are many other investment potentials in agriculture and related sectors as well as in trade and logistics. We want to do trade in commodities and logistics; we have real estate investment in the pipeline too.”

The CAR was not the only country’s whose business opportunities the local business community explored last year. According to Ntagengerwa, other trade missions organised include those to Finland – a potential gateway to the larger market in Russia and the Nordic countries.

According to sources, Rwanda and Finland signed an agreement seeking to promote, encourage and increase trade and investment opportunities that enhance sustainable development in the two countries.

It is meant to encourage trade and investment cooperation in 12 fields that include: manufactured products, agro-processed products, industrial development, SME and women economic empowerment, transportation, forestry and the extractive industry. Another trade mission headed to neighbouring DR Congo.

Last January, DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi met the then Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, and Rwanda’s envoy in Kinshasa, Vincent Karega, to discuss ways in which the neighbouring countries can increase their economic and trade ties.

Their meeting came after, among others, RwandAir’s maiden commercial flight to Kinshasa, boosted business and strengthened commercial ties between the two countries. A trade mission to Zimbabwe was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic but it could happen this year.

While in Kigali last October, Allan Majuru Chief Executive Officer at ZimTrade, Zimbabwe’s trade development and promotion agency, said “opportunities are limitless,” and all they want to do is to make sure that “we provide a platform for our countries to trade efficiently and competitively.”

Asked what key business or trade and investment opportunities Rwandan investors could look forward to in her country, Yvonne Gundu, Spokesperson of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce, said that “Zimbabwe is one of Africa’s leading destinations for both trade and investments.”

She added: “We have a stabilizing economy which is endowed with a huge array of natural resources, including minerals, climate, tourism destinations, and fertile soils among others.” Gundu shared a rundown of “some of the areas which Rwandans can consider for trade and investment.”

Her list included jewellery manufacturing, chrome smelters and platinum refineries, tourism infrastructure, fishing, agro-processing, steel manufacturing, solar power generation, logistics, lithium battery manufacturing, cutting and polishing of black granite, timber processing and the dairy products value chain.

There is also hydro power generation, value addition of tea and coffee products, diamond cutting and polishing, fertiliser production, thermal power generation, sugar production, beef production, and development of tourism infrastructure and amenities.

As noted, Rwandans can also try their luck in the establishment of foundries and metal refineries; the cotton to clothing value chain, and leather and leather products value chain.

The objectives of the trade missions, Ntagengerwa said, are three. Firstly, to explore opportunities available in a country. Secondly, to have business to business meetings whose major aim is networking so that local business people meet potential clients as well as business partners in other countries.

Thirdly, is for the necessary interactions with business promotion institutions in the countries visited so that “we can discuss important things and, for example, get to know the right procedures of getting into business in each country.”

“The trade mission is one of the strategies but we also have a desk, here at PSF offices, which facilitates whoever wants to venture abroad for business. We provide information and even remain in touch and help solve issues whenever they crop up.”

In the first quarter of this year, it is hoped that a trade mission to Zimbabwe can be prepared. Another to Mozambique is also on the list even though no sure date is yet fixed.

Mid last month, Gil Bires, Director General of Mozambique’s investment and export promotion agency, Agência Para a Promoção de Investimento e Exportações (APIEX), told The New Times that Rwandans are welcome to make the most of Mozambique’s numerous investment opportunities.

Bires said they are open and have “a very attractive regulation on investment which is friendly for foreign direct investments.” Among others, Mozambican investment law grants tax and customs benefits depending on the amount, location and sector of investment activity. Discussions are underway to look into how RwandAir can have direct flights to Mozambique.

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