Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE would ride on its mutual bilateral trade relations with Rwanda to penetrate the East African Community (EAC) as part of its strategy to improve exports.
Rwanda has become a hub for a rapidly integrating Africa with its central location in the region seen as strategic in the EAC and the wider Comesa region.
Increasing trade with Rwanda would not only enhance access to markets in the EAC but would also increase Zimbabwe’s exports to the region that has a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than US$177 billion.
Speaking during the Zimbabwe-Rwanda virtual business conference on Wednesday, ZimTrade chief executive officer Mr Allan Majuru said the country was aiming at penetrating the East African Community.
“We are trying to make sure that we not only just do trade with Rwanda but also Rwanda is a platform for Zimbabwe to take its services and goods to other countries in the East African region,” he said.
“We might be called land-locked but we call ourselves land-linked and the same applies for Rwanda. We are hoping to open warehouses in Rwanda that can then feed in into that region.
“We want to go beyond Rwanda with regards to opportunities that are there.”
In April, a ZimTrade delegation was in Kigali, Rwanda to identify products and services with potential for exports in that east-African country. The Rwanda market survey followed the resolution to intensify cooperation between the two countries that saw several Memoranda of Understanding being signed in March this year to cement bilateral relations at the inaugural virtual session of the Joint Permanent Commission on Co-operation (JPCC).
The signed agreements also include the Rwanda Development Board and ZimTrade co-operation whose objective is to promote mutually beneficial trade between the two countries.
“As ZimTrade, a couple of months ago we sent a team to explore on the opportunities that are available in Rwanda and we saw massive opportunities in ICT and tourism.
“Of interest to note is the issue of processed foods where our exports last year grew by 18 percent and also on horticulture, over 90 percent of our products are going into the EU,” said Mr Majuru.
He challenged local companies to take advantage of the strong relations that exist between Zimbabwe and Rwanda to create business linkages and value chains across different sectors of the economy.
Speaking at the same occasion, ZimTrade operations director Mr Similo Nkala said Zimbabwe was endowed with massive opportunities for local firms.
Over the years, Rwanda has experienced high economic growth and is fast becoming a strong economy in Africa, with an average of seven percent year-on-year real GDP growth since 2010.
Despite having a strong policy framework, Rwanda’s industrial sector is still small. This, Mr Nkala said, presents unique opportunities for Zimbabwean businesses in Rwanda in areas such as agriculture, health, education, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, ICT, packaging, clothing and textile, construction, engineering and tourism.
“We also believe that because of the construction taking place in Rwanda there is potential for us to explore the market.
“On the agricultural side, we believe that there are opportunities to establish linkages and also value chains in terms of your avocados, citrus, and peas.
“In terms of peas, between April and August each year we are the second largest supplier of peas to the EU market so we believe that the potential is there for us to supply if there is a market to supply Rwanda also as a market,” said Mr Nkala.
“We are also key suppliers of your citrus whether its oranges or lemons to the EU market.” — @okazunga.