For months now, Rwanda has had Covid restrictions that have affected commerce. However, new markets like Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Dubai have opened up, but the quantity, pricing and consistency of supplies is not enough to satisfy the market.
“Importers are suffering because they can’t access China, and shipping costs have also skyrocketed,” said Joseph Akumuntu, the director of the Rwanda Chamber of Commerce at the Private Sector Federation (PSF), adding, “In one month’s time, the stock in warehouses will be depleted and that’s when the market will have it rough. By the end of August the scarcity will kick in.
“When we are in a lockdown like now, consumption comes a bit down, but once people come out of the lock down consumption will shoot up and things will be bad,” he added.
Mr Akumuntu said his organisation has been working with importers seeking facilitation to get alternative markets and support to navigate the current trade obstacles.
George Niyongabo, a member of the Apparel Manufacturing Group (AMG), said textile manufacturers who pool resources to buy fabrics in bulk from China have struggled to restock since China banned foreign travel early this year.
“We considered options of sending money and having goods sent to us, but we didn’t want to risk getting wrong specifications and also being ripped off in the process,” he said.
A 40-feet container of high quality fabrics that used to be imported at between $100,000 and $150,000 from China or Dubai has increased by 30 percent, yet even alternative regional markets like Kenya are also expensive.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry advises private sector to import goods in bulk, seek alternative markets, and form a long-term plan of supporting industries to increase the quantity and quality of goods produced locally using available local raw materials to help fill the gap.
Rwanda, like many African countries imports a variety of goods from heavy machinery to retail goods from China.