President Paul Kagame has told local manufacturers to first think about local market before focusing on the region while consumers back home are ‘starving’.
The president today toured Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and visited manufacturing companies dealing in essential products the country has been importing at huge costs.
He particularly visited StrawTec, a factory that makes construction materials – boards – from straws. He also visited PharmaLab a medicine plant and C&H Garments, Chinese apparel plant with a franchise in SEZ and Africa Improved Foods, a $45million food factory.
After this tour, he met local investors and said he appreciates their efforts in bringing local products to the market.
The president said, the factories and many others in the area represent an opportunity for Rwanda “to be part of the global value chain but we should also satisfy our own market.”
This remark is backed by the fact that, local factories’ input into the local market is yet to be felt.
For instance, despite presence of a textile factory in Rwanda since 1980s, the country spends over $15 million to import second hand clothes every year.
“It is not acceptable that we import low quality goods when we have the ability to produce high quality products in Rwanda,” the President said.
“A good example is construction materials; we should not be importing them.”
According to his formula, local products should first be marketed and sold to Rwandans before they are exported.
The investment made at SEZ, he said, should benefit investors, but most importantly it must benefit Rwandans.
The president made several suggestions that would draw local products interests towards Rwandans.
One of such suggestions is for manufacturers to provide both quality and affordable products. Another one is for institutions offering tenders to give local products an advantage.
In 2014, the country intensified efforts to brand local products to expand its export base and balance the nagging 75% trade imbalance.
Through ‘Made in Rwanda’ initiative, government started engaging private sector to improve quality of local products, packaging and branding to compete both locally and internationally.
The campaign is paying off. According to ‘Formal External Trade’ report for December last year by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), Rwanda’s imports in the third quarter hit $439.39 million compared to $481.15 million in the same period of 2015 – representing a drop by 8.68%.
For local consumers who ignore made in Rwanda products, Kagame said lack of appreciation of own products is lack of self-esteem.
The government has been playing its part and will keep the pace, but it belongs to the private sector to wake up and play its role as well by availing enough products for local consumers.
After this tour, the president pursued his outreach to Amahoro in-door stadium – ‘Petit Stade’ where he met 3000 local leaders from Gasabo district and other parts of Kigali City.
The President’s interaction with local leaders discussed; good service to the community, security and transparency, fighting illicit drugs, among others.
According to the president, leadership is “doing everything in our power to deliver. It is unacceptable to fall short of our abilities to serve citizens.”
Leaders should uphold security of the country, “the security we have achieved today is knowing that no one will threaten your life because of who you are.”
“Security is knowing that no one will take the result of your hard work away from you. None of our achievements are sustainable without security,” the President reminded leaders to ‘never consider public resources as their own’.
While Rwanda is 4th least corrupt in Africa and 1st least corrupt in East African region, the President said; “All of you should stand up against corruption. You cannot stay silent and expect others to hold those involved accountable.”
President Kagame is aware of existing challenges the leaders face, but it is not an excuse not to deliver.
“The challenges we face should pressure you to work harder and make policies like Made in Rwanda a reality,” he said.
“The most important is for each of you to believe that you have what it takes within you to transform this nation.”
Fight against illicit drugs
Several leaders expressed concern over the growing issue of illicit drugs to be at the top of insecurity across the city of Kigali. Some pointed fingers at their colleagues for reluctantly giving room to bandits who destabilize their areas as a result of consumption of illicit drugs.
For Calixte Muvunyi, a local leader who attended the session, “Sometimes we go slow while dealing with this issue.”
Local government Minister Francis Kaboneka who earlier held a two-hour session with leaders warned against complacency.
“We have all agreed that we went slowly somewhere in dealing with these issue. There is no room for complacency this time around,” Kaboneka said.