Local companies should take advantage of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that Zimbabwe and Rwanda are signatories to build strong networks and prepare for opportunities to be availed, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Fredrick Shava has said.
Minister Shava said this while officiating at the inaugural Rwanda-Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Conference that started in Rwandan capital Kigali yesterday.
The minister noted the need for private sector to leverage on trade agreements to create strong linkages that will improve the visibility of Zimbabwean products in Rwanda, as the country seeks export market diversification, in line with the National Export Strategy.
President Mnangagwa launched the National Development Strategy during the ZimTrade Exporters Conference in 2019.
“There is need for continuous strengthening of business cooperation between the two countries, riding on the framework of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“Both countries are members of the COMESA and the AfCFTA, a huge market estimated to have a population of around 1,3 billion people and a combined gross domestic product valued at US$3,4 trillion.
“I therefore encourage private sector players from both countries to take advantage of this important platform to build strong networks and prepare for the opportunities to be availed by COMESA and AfCFTA,” said Minister Shava.
Building on Minister Shava’s address, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Vincent Biruta, reiterated the need for businesses in the two countries to take advantage of the AfFCFTA, whose trading started in January this year.
“I encourage private sectors to take advantage of available tools for development and sustainable growth in Africa, such as the AfCFTA,” he said.
The Rwanda -Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Conference, which runs until 30 September has been organised by the country’s trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade, Rwanda Development Board and their partners to strengthen bilateral trade relations between Zimbabwe and Rwanda as President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic gears up its economic diplomacy agenda.
The conference is one of the first fruits of the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between ZimTrade and Rwanda Development Board during the inaugural virtual session of the Joint Permanent Commission on Cooperation (JPCC) held in March 2021, whose overall objective is to promote mutually beneficial trade between the two countries.
It is also part of the ongoing efforts to strengthen economic cooperation between Zimbabwe and Rwanda within the context of the Joint Permanent Commission of Co-operation (JPCC), which provides for a legal and coordinated framework for cooperation.
Four Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) in the areas of; tourism and business events; economic, trade and investment cooperation; information and communication technologies and e-Government; and cooperation in the field of agriculture and livestock development were also signed by the two Governments during the Conference.
Another MoU was signed between the Rwanda Private Sector Federation and the Confederation Zimbabwe Industries to improve direct linkages between the businesses in the two countries.
The Zimbabwean Government and business delegation is led by Dr Shava, who is accompanied by the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Sekai Nzenza, and Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, Mangaliso Ndlovu.
To unlock opportunities presented by some of these agreements, the trade and investment conference will unpack sector specific opportunities, compliance needs as well as route to market that will help Zimbabwean companies land products and services with ease in Rwanda, as well as attract foreign direct investment from the country.
There are export opportunities for Zimbabwean businesses in Rwanda in areas such as agriculture, health, education and manufacturing, pharmaceutical, ICT, packaging, clothing and textile, construction and engineering, and tourism.
For example, agriculture is the main economic activity in Rwanda and accounts for about 33 percent of Gross Domestic Product and there is potential for growth through increased productivity and value addition.
This presents opportunities for Zimbabwean companies to supply agricultural inputs, mechanization equipment, and implements.
As Rwanda is on a major infrastructure development drive, Zimbabwean companies can supply building and construction supplies, as well as related services to the sector.
Further to this, Zimbabwean companies in the services sector can ride on the nation’s stellar academic reputation and high literacy rate to export services, there are opportunities in the education sector, with easy wins in export of study programmes and distance learning.
This can benchmark and model around existing frameworks used by leading online institutions such as University of South Africa which services over 130 countries globally.
Already, Zimbabwe has a decent pool of qualified professionals that can satisfy these demands.
For example, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to export teaching services, particularly in subjects such as English, Mathematics and Science.