Traders are reeling from the biting dollar scarcity in the market, with many importers left stranded after their banks also became dry.
The continued strengthening of the dollar against the franc coupled with inflationary pressures have made it worse for traders who depend on dollars to import goods.
The franc depreciated against the dollar by 6.05 percent year-on-year end of 2022, with official reserves pegged at 4.2 months of import cover.
But the reserves seem to have dwindled further in the first three months of the year, as the economy contracted due to persistent inflationary pressures.
“Getting dollars now is a big problem, banks are not giving us dollars, when you need $300,000 they can’t give you even $100,000, yet we have pending purchase orders from external suppliers who are waiting for the money,” said D’amour Uwamungu, an importer in Kigali.
“We are losing a lot of money, something drastic needs to be done to arrest the situation, because we can’t continue losing business yet we have our money in these banks,” he lamented.
The situation has forced some traders to start getting dollars from backdoor dealers out of desperation, who sell them at exorbitant prices, exposing businessmen to losses.
The dollar scarcity is indirectly fanning an informal and illegal dollar trade market as dealers who hoarded dollars seek to cash in on the scarcity taking advantage of desperate importers.
“BNR is not admitting that there is a forex scarcity, yet they are trading even the few dollars they have, the dollar has been appreciating relentlessly, and we are left on our own,” said Franklin Begumisa, who imports agricultural mechanized irrigation equipment.
He said besides the banks denying them the dollars, especially for those that need big sums like $ 50,000 and above, they have also slapped steep charges on dollar withdrawals, which has added to their pains.
“Withdrawing $ 5000 and above now attracts a 1 per cent charge by the banks, they also ask us for contracts, an invoice of what you are going to pay for, this is all strange,” he said.