Kampala’s Anti-Rwanda Hostility Continues to Backfire on Ugandan Business, Trade

An article in the current issue of the East African newspaper under the headline, ‘Feuds hurt Rwanda’s informal cross border trade”, leaves a lot to be desired in informing its readers on the issue, going by analysis of trade figures.

The writer of the story – which also is published in Uganda’s Daily Monitor, a sister publication to the East African – makes several claims based on what he says is statistical data from BNR, but some of his figures cannot be found on BNR reports.

The article’s claims, and its quoted data also happen to be in contradiction with the Rwandan Central Banks’ Monetary Policy, and its Financial Stability Statement of August 2019. The author’s figures also happen to contradict the quarterly report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) of June 2019.

The East African claims that Rwandan imports fell by 40 percent. Yet the Central Bank indicates clearly that there was an 18 percent increase of Rwanda’s import bill in the first half of 2019, compared to the first half of 2018.

The newspaper in its claim of decreased imports wrongly attributes this to the current bad relations between Rwanda and Uganda.

Also the newspaper’s assertion that exports grew by 7.5 percent – at the end of the article – should have prompted him to suggest a different title, for instance “Rwanda finds new export markets.”

Logically an economic ‘feud’ would not lead to an increase in exports. Strangely, as the author zeroes in on tensions between Uganda and Rwanda as a supposed cause of fallen imports, he randomly brings in Burundi.

According to NISR, while EAC represents 16 percent of Rwandan imports, it is important to note that Burundi represents only 0.88 percent of the EAC volume.

In 2019, EAC represented 19.63 percent of Rwandan exports in the first quarter. South Sudan was the leading destination of Rwandan exports, with 34.11 percent. This is only one example of the clear discrepancies between what the article says and the reality.

The Central Bank of Uganda is on record, raising the alarm at the economic impact of the strained relations between Uganda and Rwanda – which are a direct result of Yoweri Museveni’s policy of hostility against Kigali.

Rwanda has been Uganda’s firth biggest exports market overall for several years. In fact Rwanda is even more important as a market for Ugandan goods than China is!

According Bank of Uganda, Rwanda represents close to $200 million market for Ugandan goods, products and services annually.

This market was jeopardized the moment President Museveni triggered his anti-Rwanda policies, amongst them endless harassment of ordinary Rwandan citizens, illegal arrests, torture and incarceration on charges for which they never try them.

That led this year at the beginning of March to Kigali issuing a strong travel advisory against her citizens crossing to Uganda.

Also, heavy Ugandan commercial trucks were interdicted from using the Gatuna Border to cross into Rwanda – a move to facilitate faster construction of the One Stop Border Post.

The Central Bank of Uganda records the loss to Ugandan businesses to be an estimated $11million per month as a result of this situation.

The East African publishes an article on the premise that the issue is “border closure”, when in reality that is far from the case. “Given that trade is ultimately about humans, creating a safe environment for traders should logically be a top priority,” said a Kigali business analyst.

A deliberate hostile policy against a neighboring country is bound to impact business, he continued.




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