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Rwanda's blooming export industry

10th January 2015

One of Rwanda’s top priorities is exports in order to create jobs and reduce the trade deficit.  The country’s ambition is to increase exports from $0.6b in 2013 to over $2b by 2018. But Rwanda is still heavily dependent on commodities – tea, coffee, minerals: relatively low-value addition sectors which suffer from volatile price swings.  

Rwanda has huge potential to attract investors that can take new products to the world: niche processed goods like Stevia, the natural sweetener found in Green Coke; high-quality clothes supported by Rwanda’s emerging silk production; sophisticated conferences like the World Economic Forum.  Such diversification would boost growth but also create high value jobs, quickly.  Since 2014, AGI has been working with government to turn the potential into reality.

First, AGI worked with stakeholders across government and the private sector to identify seven projects in high potential, emerging sectors where support should be focused.  The next challenge was how to make these projects happen.  The government needed to take ownership to drive decision-making on these projects.  We supported the Industrial Development and Economic Council (IDEC), a cross-government forum, to champion these projects and sustain attention from all actors.  To meet the resulting demands, we brought together officials to keep the information and momentum flowing.  IDEC now meets monthly to discuss progress on each project against targets and assess resulting recommendations. 

To support the follow-through on commitments made at this forum, we developed with government a Joint Performance Contract (Imihigo) for Exports.  This is a ground-breaking innovation which allows the President to hold Ministries and District accountable for reaching shared goals, for example so that export projects can access land and infrastructure quickly. 

As a result, things are moving in 2015: accelerating the establishment of Rwanda’s first Joint Venture in flowers; prioritizing financing for factory shells for new garment manufacturers from China; earmarking 1,000ha of land to guarantee that Stevia processing can start; and the establishment of an Export Growth Fund to give high potential firms access to cheaper finance and matching grants.


Photogrpahy:Sean J.