President Paul Kagame has stepped up the hunt for more trade allies if his recent official visits to five countries in the past few weeks is anything to go by.
In the past few weeks, President Kagame made state visits to Zambia, Congo, Brazzaville, Jamaica, Barbados, Senegal, and working visits to Kenya in his pursuit for more allies.
In Congo Brazzaville, the two countries signed economic partnership agreement for the promotion and protection of investments, mining, small and medium-sized enterprises and handcrafts, culture and arts, youth, sports and civic education.
And in and Zambia the two countries signed agreements touching on taxation, immigration, health, investment promotion, agriculture, fisheries and livestock.
Rwandan traders have in the past few years started exporting meat and horticulture products to Congo Brazzaville, Zambia, Angola and a few others, thanks to RwandAir launching flights to some of these African countries, but bureaucracy and inter-trade bloc charges has hampered volumes in this trade.
In 2021, Rwanda and Congo Brazzaville eliminated double taxation and visa requirements, which has to a certain extent eased trade between the two countries, although transport costs remain high.
Congo Brazzaville also granted Rwanda up to 12,000 hectares of exploitable land to be used in agriculture, trade and other economic activities, adding to the stock of land that Rwanda has been gifted in other countries like Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania but still remain unexploited.
This month, Rwanda hosted a Zimbabwe-Rwanda trade and investment conference in Harare, following a similar event, which was held in Kigali last year, creating a strong platform to ease trade between the two countries.
Traders from both countries were brought to the forefront to point out any hindrances they face so they can be dealt with, but also trade agreements were signed between the two countries.
During the event in Harare, Trade and Industry Minister Beata Habyarimana said the high-level trade engagements between the two countries couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“Our co-operation has grown exponentially in the past five years with several agreements signed in education, trade, energy, agriculture, mineral resources, ICT, and tourism.”
On the important lessons from Covid-19, Minister Beata reiterated: “The urgency of Africa’s self-reliance in reinforcing trade & investment ties between countries is essential, through these engagements the two countries are leading by example”
Trade relations with Angola also recently took a turn when the two countries signed nine economic-leaning agreements at the First Session of the Joint Permanent Commission on cooperation (JPCC). The two countries set to increase their cooperation in sectors such as health, energy, education, infrastructure, tourism and justice, among other areas.
“Strengthening trade bilateral and trade relations with countries like Congo Brazzaville is very strategic for Rwanda, Congo is two hours away from Kigali by plane, has access to the sea and it is a country with an open trade policy, this presents opportunities to Rwandan traders” said Teddy Kaberuka, an economist in Kigali.
He noted that the biggest challenge for Rwandan traders foraying into exporting to countries like Congo Brazzaville is the lack of transport links, leaving only air transport as the option yet it has proved to be expensive.
“There are some traders who exported meat and horticulture products to Congo and incurred losses because they lacked modern storage facilities, yet transportation was expensive and cumbersome. One of the options is Rwandan traders exploiting the land Rwanda has been granted in Congo to produce these goods".