Border closure affects industry

Monday April 8 2019

cement

Cement traders in Rwanda face a shortage of different Ugandan cement brands due to the closure of the border between the two countries. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Several bags of cement that Etienne Hakizimana sells at his Remera store are piled up not far from the entrance of his small office, right next to his big cement store.

The pile has products like Cimerwa, Twiga, Nyati and even Dangote Cement, which he says he is trying to familiarise to his customers.

But his most popular product — Hima Cement from Uganda — is missing.

“We don't have the Hima product because it sold out just a few days into the border closure.

If the order is lifted we shall continue selling it because its popular with our customers, right now we are selling what we have,” Mr Hakizimana told Rwanda Today.

Mr Hakizimana, like many distributors of products from Uganda, said his goods have long been depleted from stores since Rwanda closed its border with Uganda.

Customers are getting used to the new reality because they have no option but to switch to the alternatives.

On February 27, Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda to its citizens and suspended crossing of large trucks from Uganda, as the political feud between the two countries escalated, hurting trade between the two countries.

Rwanda says it closed the border because Uganda was abducting and torturing its citizens who cross over into the country.

Almost a month and a half after the closure, the decision has affected a wide range of businesses, from passenger bus companies, logistics companies and traders that plied the Kampala-Kigali route.

Although traders like Mr Hakizimana, who dealt in goods from Uganda were affected by the border closure, many are adapting to the situation by replacing Ugandan products with other options.

The brunt of the closure has been felt by manufacturers of Ugandan products, who had set up offices in Rwanda, and have not made a single sale.

Many of these companies like Hima cement, Mukwano Industries, Roofing among others, have kept their offices open, as they wait and hope for the reopening of the border, but they continue to incur losses.

“We respect the government’s decision because this is a political issue and we are waiting just like other companies,” said Aimable Ngendahayo, the acting general manager of Hima cement in Rwanda.

Although he said their offices are still open, reliable sources say some employees are no longer coming to work because there is nothing much to do.

Hima Cement enjoys a 40 per cent market share, only second to Cimerwa.

Footwear and textile traders said the border closure has affected their business. Robert Bapfakurera, the chairman of Rwanda Private Sector Federation said those who were importing shoes and textiles from Uganda are now importing them from China.

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