Rwandan contractors are losing lucrative tenders in East Africa because they cannot comprehend bid documents written in English Language. This is according to Donatien Mungwararera, director of The Private Sector Federation Rwanda (PSF).

“Though we carryout periodic trainings in languages, we do not reach everyone,” said Mungwararera, who advised traders to try their best to learn “the most commonly spoken languages in the region, especially English and Swahili, to enhance their competitiveness.”

Laying credence to the PSF director’s claim, a local supplier of construction materials, Enock Kamugisha, told New Times Kigali that he lost tenders on four occasions because he could not understand all the requirements stated in the bid documents.

“Bids are drafted in English; and there are many technical terms that we fail to understand,” he said.

PSF, a professional organization dedicated to promoting the interests of the Rwandan business community has noted that learning the languages will boost the growth of Rwanda’s private sector.

The East African nation changed its official language from French to English about seven years ago. But several local business owners do not still understand English or Swahili. It joined the East African Community (EAC) in 2009, an economic community, where three of the members – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – speak English.

According to Rwanda’s 2013 Manpower Survey released earlier this year, most Rwandan business people do not understand English and Swahili. This has made them less competitive within the region.

To help solve this challenge, the Ministry of East African Community Affairs has developed a new language policy that will offer Swahili and English lessons at an early age. “We have a policy that aims at teaching Swahili from lower secondary education. The policy is already being implemented by the Ministry of Education,” said Jean Pierre Niyitegeka, the director of social development centre at the ministry.

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