Kagame, Free Trade Requires More Than Talking About It.

Champion free trade – but embarrassingly ill-equipped to participate in it.

By David Himbara

President Paul Kagame is championing free trade across Africa. Well and good. There are obviously many factors involved in trading — not least, production of goods to trade.

My question to Kagame today is this. How will Rwanda ever become competitive in the African and global marketplaces with such high transportation costs?

An indication of this challenge is transportation costs of shipping one container of exports or imports.

The World Bank collects data on the cost of shipping a 20-foot container of exports. Calculated into the cost are administrative fees for customs clearance, customs broker fees, terminal handling charges, and inland transport.

Rwanda compares to the East African community countries as follows:

  1. Rwanda — US$3,245
  2. Burundi — US$2,905
  3. Uganda — US$2,800
  4. Kenya — US$2,255
  5. Tanzania — US$1,090
  6. World average — US$1,560

Rwanda’s cost of transporting exports/imports is bad news — it is the highest in East Africa. Rwanda’s transport costs are more than double of the world average. Worse, Rwanda’s transport costs are higher than Uganda’s and Burundi’s both of which are landlocked. While Kagame champions free trade, he is embarrassingly ill-equipped to participate in it.

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