Rwanda is small market, ignore it, Kyambadde tells traders. By Arthur Arnold Wadero



Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde. FILE PHOTO



Mr Everest Kayondo, the chairman of Kampala City Traders’ Association (Kacita), dismissed the proposal as “unviable,” saying the solution is escapist and swapping business to different jurisdictions is not easy.

Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde has said Ugandans should drop “sentimental” attachment to Rwanda, which shut its main Gatuna border to Ugandan cargo in February, and explore new regional markets for exports.

« We are not going to confine ourselves to an economy of how many million [people]? Eight million! » she said in an underestimation of Rwanda’s population, projected this year at 12 million.

She made the remarks at the Second Breakfast Policy Series organised by the National Planning Authority (NPA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at Kampala Serena Hotel yesterday.

« Of course, we have sentiments with Rwanda, but if you are doing business, you should forget about Rwanda. Let us look at other areas. And I keep telling Ugandans, let’s go to (the) DR Congo. Let us go to other neighbours. Those are emotions, business is money, » she added.

There have been outcries by Uganda manufacturers that the border blockade was suffocating them.

Three of Uganda’s big-ticket manufacturers announced they had lost up to Shs35b in exports to Rwanda after the Gatuna border closure.

Roofings Mills Limited, which manufactures steel products and construction materials, Hima Cement and Uganda Breweries Ltd told a Private Sector Foundation Uganda-organised conference that they lost $4m (Shs15b), $3.5m (Shs13b) and Pounds 1.5m (about Shs7b), respectively.

Uganda earns multiple times more in exports to Rwanda.

Uganda last year raked in $197m (Shs730b) from exports to Rwanda, lower than the $254m (Shs940b) peak earning three years ago, but still higher than the $20m (Shs274b) worth of Rwandan exports to Uganda.

Ms Kyambadde said she had started receiving requests for compensation by some Ugandan traders who claim to have lost vehicles and other assets in Rwanda, but warned that government will not bail out any loser.

Traders’ reaction

Mr Everest Kayondo, the chairman of Kampala City Traders’ Association (Kacita), dismissed the proposal as « unviable, » saying the solution is escapist and swapping business to different jurisdictions is not easy. « That is not a solution because a similar thing happened when civil unrest erupted in South Sudan, (Uganda) government advised traders to go to Rwanda and maybe trade with other partner states. So where shall we end if we have to run away from South Sudan and now from Rwanda? » he asked. Mr Kayondo said exported goods vary according to taste and preferences of nationals.