By David Himbara
Kagame, you do not have a textile-apparel industry in Rwanda — period. I go even further. I doubt if your regime is capable of creating one. What you have in Rwanda are a few garment-makers. The established ones are Utexrwa set up in 1988 owned by Ugandan investors, and C&H Garments launched in 2015 by two Chinese women, Helen Hai and Candy Ma.
But before I look at Rwanda’s ramshackle apparel sector, let me ask you this. Does your regime even know what a genuine textile-apparel industry looks like? Let me briefly explain.
Kagame, the above diagram shows a traditional textile-apparel value chain with its multiple layers of raw material producers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. As shown in the diagram, the textile-apparel commodity chain is organized around five main segments:
- Raw material supply, including natural and synthetic fibers;
- Manufacturing of components such as the yarns and fabrics by textile companies;
- Making actual clothing by apparel factories;
- Exporting through established trade intermediaries; and
- Marketing networks at the retail level.
Kagame, the few operations you have in Rwanda are all at stage three — making garments. You don’t have stage one. Rwanda has no natural fibers of cotton, wool or silk. Nor does Rwanda have synthetic fibers of oil and natural gas. Utexrwa attempted to grow silk raw materials, but the project collapsed.
Kagame, I remember how you boasted to David Cameron, the then-future British Prime Minister, back in 2009 that Rwanda was ready to become a textile exporter based on Rwandan silk. What happened to the poor Rwandan farmers that were misled to grow the stuff?
Kagame, obviously you don’t have stage two of the textile-apparel industry. All yarns and fabrics used by Rwandan garment-makers are imported.
Kagame, your worst problems are outside the textile-apparel industry and are self-inflicted
Kagame, you do not have reliable electricity supply in Rwanda. The country has 205 Megawatts, 20 percent of which is lost due to the dilapidated transmission infrastructure. If a few more factories were to be set up in Rwanda right now, the whole country would plunge into darkness.
Transportation is another issue. As you know, Rwandan products are uncompetitive because their costs are increased by over 40 percent due to costly transport. Linking Rwanda to international markets via a rail link to seaports is the solution.
Kagame, the American railway corporation BNSF, the American government, African Development Bank, and many others supported you to link Kigali to Isaka in Tanzania with a railway. From 2007 onwards, the railway was shaping nicely. In 2008, you announced that BNSF would build the railway. You and President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania announced that by 2012, the railway would be running. But by 2012 you were then talking about “hitting” Kikwete.
Kagame here is my unsolicited advice
Kagame, don’t engage in useless trade wars over something you don’t have. Your textile industry is a joke. Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta, and John Magufuli must be laughing at you. They have genuine textile industries to defend — that is why they attempted to block the importation of used clothes from the U.S. But when the U.S. reminded them of the two-way trade agreement under AGOA, they backed down. Meanwhile, you, who has nothing to defend, continued to fight. That’s what is called insanity.