Uganda exporters and manufacturers are still struggling to return to the Rwandan market, three months after Kigali reopened its shared border with Kampala after nearly three years of closure.
The ongoing trade bottlenecks are an eyesore, according to recent PR -Efforts by Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, commander of Uganda’s land forces, whose shuttle diplomacy was followed by the announcement of the reopening of shared borders in February.
The reopening was seen as a sign of a new chapter in Ugandan relations and Rwanda, as both countries pledged to address contentious issues through dialogue.
The open border should reintroduce bilateral trade between the two countries, particularly in sectors such as food and agriculture, mining, and iron and steel industries.< /p>
But three months later, trade between the two neighbors still has to return to its previous volume e.g return. Exporters are reporting an increase in several tariff and non-tariff barriers since the border opened, and manufacturers are struggling to restore supply chains in Kigali.
Uganda’s Junior Trade Minister Harriet Ntabaazi told The EastAfrican, that the two countries are in high-level talks to iron out some of the barriers. These include quotas and quality concerns from Kigali. The minister gave no details or deadlines.
Daniel Birungi, executive director of the Uganda Manufacturers Association, said several manufacturers are already hiring their counterparts in Kigali.
“Since the announcement of the When the border opened, there were preliminary talks about resuming operations in a market that we haven’t been to for a long time. These were mainly between Ugandan manufacturers and their distributors in Rwanda, who were pushing for trade to resume,” Mr Birungi said.
A few Ugandan manufacturers had products after a pandemic forced them to reduce production in the Rwandan market are still operating at low capacity.
However, small traders living near the shared border have already resumed business to Rwanda, according to the Ugandan Ministry of Trade and Industry.
p>< p>Uganda’s exports to Rwanda hit a low of US$2 million in 2020 at the height of hostilities between the two countries, from a peak of more than US$200 million before the border closed.
Ugandese manufacturers took up more business in South Sudan and explored other alternative markets such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Hima Cement Uganda, one of the f leading cement exporters to Rwanda, said: “We are not currently exporting to Rwanda but we will resume soon. However, we have already sent a verification team to Rwanda that will help us with our decision,” said Caroline Kezaabu, the company’s communications manager.
Cement was one of Uganda’s top exports to Rwanda before the shared border was closed . Other commodities include aluminium, corn, soap, electricity, pharmaceuticals and fuel.
According to Martin Kyeyune, corporate affairs manager at Roofings Uganda Ltd, a steelmaker, the opening of the border will allow the company to return to its former market.
“Our intention stems from our vision to gain access to markets in Africa wherever there is an opportunity. While we’re not seeing immediate business from Rwanda right now, the prospects are there now that the border is open,” he told the border for passenger traffic.
The two countries, along with the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sharing the world population of mountain gorillas have seen tourists cross the border into either country, chauffeured by tour operators operating in the region.
According to the country’s 2018 Tourism Report, released almost a year before the When the border came out, Rwanda contributed about 26% of Uganda’s total tourist arrivals, just behind Kenya at 29%.
According to the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, the reopening of the border has delighted its members, most of whom are just recovering from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The reopening of the border with Rwanda means a big deal. So many tour operators operating outbound trips were unable to travel to Rwanda and that meant shorter itineraries, fewer customers and less revenue,” said Nancy Okwong, the association’s spokesperson.