Manufacturers are facing myriad of problems as the year begins, with low key export markets, reduced disposable income and inability to access raw and packaging materials posing major hurdles.
Some of these are foreign and local investors, who operate in the Kigali Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and other locations, have started the year with plunged sales, and are struggling to stay afloat, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hurt businesses.
Some of their clients cancelled contracts last year due to a shift in consumer priorities, while others have been weighed down by logistical bottlenecks that persisted for the biggest part of last year, and have continued into 2021, as the country increases the virus containment measures.
“Last year dealt our business a big blow that we are not even yet to recover from, the biggest chunk of our production used to be sold to the export market, this significantly reduced because we couldn’t export to these countries.”
“We lost three markets. Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi, where we used to export our products, nothing has changed yet,” said Rugwizangonga Cyriaque, a shareholder and commercial director at Pharma lab, a local company making blood collection tubes and urine, stool containers.
The firm used to supply the products to health facilities in Uganda, Burundi, DRC and Tanzania, but among these markets it only retained Tanzania.
What has kept the business afloat among their products are surgical masks, which companies recently started supplying to eastern DRC.
Mr Cyriaque said the local market has been strongly affected as quantities bought by local health facilities drastically reduced for the better part of last year.
According to him, the company is struggling to repay loans as well as meeting other fixed costs like rent for stores.
Textile companies like Ufaco Vlisco, which produces garments for the export market, with the biggest mass of its garments going to Europe, is also on the brink of closure because of lost markets.
The company makes shirts, dresses, trousers, jackets, uniforms and other garments.