Photograph — OPIC

With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now three countries shy of implementation, it is up to local African producers to make the most of available markets. With this realization, Rwanda is well on course to fully maximize this opportunity by enabling products made in the country to access regional and possibly, world markets.

The nationwide campaign dubbed, ‘Zamukana Ubuziranenge,’ is focused on helping Made-in-Rwanda products gain consumer confidence among the public and increase the export volume. Launched in 2017 by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), the initiative spans over five years, targeting more than 300 products and 93 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country.

The standards body has also been working with different stakeholders, including the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion for sustainability of the project. The National Council for People with Disabilities is also involved to ensure the inclusiveness of people with disabilities.

Over the past 18 months, more than 250 products have received approval from the Standards Board (RSB), the New Times reported citing data from the agency. The 2017/18 fiscal year saw 144 new products certified and 78 recertified, while 115 new products were certified during the past six months of the current fiscal year 2018/19.

Made in Rwanda campaign

The Made-In-Rwanda campaign was launched in 2016, with the aim of stimulating the country’s domestic market to address the nation’s trade deficit. The campaign also involves an annual expo, where only local producers and manufacturers gather to exhibit their products.

Since then, Rwanda’s exports have risen as the trade deficit narrowed. Up from $375 million generated from exports in the first six months of 2017, Rwanda generated $463 million in the same period the last year. While it also witnessed a 36 percent drop in its trade deficit since 2015, owing to the Made-in-Rwanda policy that has increased the country’s industrial output.

The government has also committed to supporting all efforts to promote products made in the region in line with Rwanda’s Vision 2020, among which is to achieve a 28 percent annual export growth.

How the RSB initiative helps Rwanda

Apart from the prospect of increasing export volume, having more producers would help improve the quality of goods, push down the cost of commodities and ensure competitiveness in the regional markets.

More so, a majority of the products approved so far are in the agro-processing industries and construction materials. This is particularly good for Rwanda’s local construction and real estate sectors, which have registered enormous growth rates over the past decade. In 2017, the government laid out plans to attract more cement makers to boost local production and address the hike in demand for cement created by the construction boom.

Overall, the initiative will further revamp manufacturing in Rwanda and boost the consumption of locally made products including textile, timber, agro-business, minerals and hides and skins. This will gradually eliminate used clothes and shoes from the local market, paving way for Made-in-Rwanda products.

Rwanda is already part of international trade associations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the East African Community (EAC). Being a member of the AfCFTA, which provides that every country will be able to sell its locally certified products to another country with ease, Rwanda’s certified products are positioned to have unlimited opportunities in the African market. However, to achieve real success with the initiative, the government has to do more by providing local producers with the necessary incentives.

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