By David Himbara
Major General Paul Kagame, so you have signed the continental free trade agreement. That is great. But what will you sell on the market? The problem is that Rwanda imports almost everything.
Most embarrassingly, the largest amount of money Rwanda spends on imports is not even on complex things such capital goods, intermediary goods, or even petroleum products. The biggest part of Rwanda’s imports comprises of basic consumer goods that can easily be produced domestically with the right policies. These include meat and fish, milk and milk products, birds eggs, natural honey, fats and oils, fruit and spice, cereals, flours and seeds, salt, and sugar.
Kagame, if you don’t believe me that basic goods consume the largest amount of money with regards to importation, look at the 2017 data of your National Bank of Rwanda (BNR):
Consumer goods imports amounted to US$746 million in 2017
Consumer goods imports included meat and fish, milk and milk product, birds eggs, natural honey, fats and oils, fruit and spice, cereals, flours and seeds, salt, and sugar.
Capital goods imports amounted to US$620 million
Capital goods imports included buses, trucks, trailer, and other transport materials such as machines and tools.
Intermediary goods imports amounted to US$596 million
These products included construction and similar products such as cement, metallics, textiles, paper, chemicals, and fertilizers.
Energy and lubricants amounted to US$252 million
These were petroleum and other fuel products including lubricating oils.
Of Rwanda’s total import bill of US$2.2 billion in 2017, US$746 million went to basic consumer goods
Kagame, as you see from BNR data, the largest part of Rwanda’s import bill — namely, US$746 million or 34 percent— bought consumer goods such meat and fish, milk and milk product, birds eggs, natural honey, fats and oils, fruit and spice, cereals, flours and seeds, salt, and sugar.
Kagame, how to come from this mess it is no rocket science
Chief, you must build a consumer goods sector in Rwanda that produces basic things like milk, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, cereal, and meat. Forget convention centers. Tall buildings in Kigali will not help. Go back to the basics man. That is when you might become a real trader.