The outgoing Executive committee of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) on Wednesday closed business to pave way for preparation of polls to elect new federation leadership next week.
New executive committees of PSF from cell to country level will be elected in the coming countrywide polls slated for 8th – 21st February 2018.
Chamber heads will be elected on 14th February while the new PSF chairperson will be elected on February 21st.
In the corridors of power, the question is who is the next person to replace Benjamin Gasamagera who has served the two legal terms of three years?
Gasamagera is credited to have enabled the sector to negotiate better taxation policies, increase local exports and investments through training and exposition in local and international trade fairs.
Several voices from PSF members and people who follow trends at the federation closely suggest that businesswomen have now acquired maturity to drive the business community.
According to a PSF source, four women leading chambers have shown ability and, one of them could rise to the top position.
The women include: Eugenie Nshimiyimana, head of the Women’s Entrepreneur Chamber, Christine Murebwayire who heads the chamber of agriculture and Alphonsine Rubangura, head of the chamber of industry.
Rubangura, the daughter of late Vedaste Rubangura, a deceased Kigali tycoon is a Director at Cogebanque and shareholder of Prime Insurance Rwanda on top of other businesses.
Men are also on this list, but, observers prefer to avoid speculations, “because there is quite a large number in the golden circle, most of whom have what it takes,” said a PSF official.
The golden circle is a category of PSF honorary members.
The most spoken are Jean Damascène Niyongabo, the chairman, and owner of Master Steel ltd – a local investment company that manufactures construction material out of steel.
Master Steel Ltd employs more than 220 permanent staff, with their current market covering both private and government institutions and exports mainly to DR Congo.
Niyongabo’s company started from humble beginnings more than 25 years ago. The company is now playing in a respectable arena with total assets amounting to USD 21.4 Million.
Another potential tycoon on the list of potential candidates is Egide Gatera, the owner of Société Pétrolière (SP) – a Rwandan company solely dealing in the importation and distribution of petroleum products.
He is popular with 42 petrol stations spread across the country and recently inaugurated a fuel depot worth $22 million, located in Rusororo Sector, Gasabo District.
To vie for the top PSF seat, one must be a member of the PSF general assembly. The latter is made of the General Assemblies of Provinces and City of Kigali, to be chairman of PSF at district level or be head of any of the 10 chambers.
Since PSF was established in December 1999, replacing the former Rwanda Chamber of Commerce and Industry, no woman has ever led the organization.
Former bosses of PSF (by chronology) include Ndoba Mugunga, Alfred Gakuba Kalisa, Robert Bayigamba, Faustin Mbundu, and Benjamin Gasamagera.
All the five men are tycoons and influential business people and all of them from the same chamber (sector) of trade and commerce.
Unfinished PSF business
The ballot is rolling and businessmen and women’s head but despite the achievement of the federation, there is more unfinished business.
For some grass root officials like Juvenal Kimonyo, Chairman PSF Muhanga district the next choice will be one who can continue dialogue and advocacy between government and private sector players.
Kimonyo says that the private sector needs someone who can negotiate with government and promote the existing development policies.
“PSF has managed to educate taxpayers to pay taxes on time and see the value of taxation in development but there is a need for more work on negotiating lower interest loans from banks for local investors,” Kimonyo said.
Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) collected Rwf 582.7 billion from tax revenues in the period July-Dec 2017 against a target of Rwf 572.6 billion, boosted by a strong economic environment. This reflects an achievement of 101.8%, an excess of Rwf 10 billion above the target.
Also, lending rates percentages as provided by the central bank remain high and there has been little change in the past three years.
For example in 2017 the rate was at 17.450 as of January with a small change to 17.190 as of December 2017, while in 2016 the lending rates stood at 16.690 (January) and 17.210 (December) that year and these rates were locked at 17.450 and 17.030 in January and December 2015 respectively.
Business people think that the next chairperson has a lot on their plate in that area and must be ready to put up a good fight.
According to the chairperson of organizing committee, Felix Mutagoma, the Federation is working closely with the Ministry of Local Government and National Electoral Commission to ensure a smooth process.
“We have put rules and regulations governing the elections and we are working with government and Electoral Commission to ensure that the process goes on well,” Mutagoma said.
“Our Sector is the biggest employer in the country with 98% that’s why we need to have a strong leadership that will advocate for the growth of our country’s economy,” Mutagoma added.