Rwanda says it is giving Ghanaians a foot-in-the-door advantage to become business owners in the country and to take advantage of an integrated border system that allows for easy trading with neighbouring countries, touting what they described as zero bureaucracy.
The country with a dark genocide past which is often referred to in a bid to assuage ethnocentric politics is now often cited as one of steady socio-economic development.
As Rwanda opens up a new fully-fledged high commission on the back of its visa-free policy with Ghana, it has invited several players within Ghana’s hospitality industry to explore investment opportunities and strike some deals.
In this piece, Joy News’ Gifty Andoh Appiah reports, authorities in Rwanda say the country is not only open to investment but wants to partner Ghana in positioning Africa as a destination of choice for vacation and international conferences.
REGISTERING A BUSINESS IN RWANDA
Ghana does not have a High Commission in Rwanda yet although it operates a consular office. For Ghanaians seeking to do business in Rwanda, head of Ghana’s consulate in the country, Derek Kerera (who is Rwandan) says the Rwandan Development Board has been created as a one stop shop that:
Will facilitate right from entry [into the country] through your process of registering the business, through your processes of embarking, though getting the trade certificate, through getting the land title, through paying the electricity bills, through filing your taxes, in the same center. You could leave their office with your business registration, he said.
Rwanda’s population as of 2019, was 12,374,397, less than half Ghana’s population but Mr Karera says that should not deter Ghanaian investors because this means there are several free spaces and lands to explore, and Rwanda operates an open and integrated border system which allows for easy trading among neighbouring countries like Uganda (41.6 million population as of 2019) and Tanzania (59,734,218 as of 2020).
We are centrally positioned and you can spread your supply chain around the region. Our borders are not complicated at all, he added.
AREAS OF INVESTMENT/ COVID 19 AND TAX WAIVERS
Pharmaceuticals, services (hospitality/tourism), manufacturing, construction and real estate industries are key among areas of investment Ghanaians are being invited to participate in.
In efforts to bounce back its economy post covid 19, Rwanda says it has introduced tax waivers for the manufacturing and construction industries in particular from now till 2023 and wants investors to take advantage of this intervention aimed at boosting productivity.
They are also waiving value added taxes in the sector. On the back of covid 19, the authorities in Rwanda say government embarked on the restructuring of bank loans to make it easier for businesses operating on loans to survive, ensuring the banks freed interest on loans up to as long as 6 years while the banks were themselves cushioned with some 100 million dollars injected by the state into the banking sector.
Manufacturing of fast-moving goods is a great area to focus on as a Ghanaian investor looking to penetrate the Rwandan market. Authorities say 85 percent of Supermarket supplies in Rwanda are imported.
So far, Ghanaians operating businesses in Rwanda are within the banking, insurance, telecommunications, education and defense sectors but Rwanda is calling for more.
COCOA PRODUCTION COLLABORATION
One of the key areas of collaboration between Ghana and Rwanda, according to head of Ghana’s consulate in Rwanda, is in the cocoa production industry. Rwanda is the second world largest producer of pyrethrum and has approximately 15 % of the world market share. Pyrethrum production is essential for cocoa farming and for a cocoa reliant country like Ghana, Rwandan authorities see this as a clear opportunity for Ghana to reduce its import spending on pyrethrum from western countries as it is cheaper in Rwanda.
He said several work and discussions have been ongoing at the very highest level involving the two presidents, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Paul Kagame.
RWANDA, GHANA VISA FREE POLICY CHALLENGES
Rwanda waived visa requirements for Ghanaians in 2020. The aim is to boost bilateral relations and in line with Rwanda’s goal of opening up its economy and project itself as a tourist destination. Rwandan authorities are, however, worried, some persons are taking advantage of the arrangement to use Rwanda to illegally enter European countries.
From here they will go to the European [countries] because there is a flight from Kigali, the same RwandAir that goes, from here to London. So we have had a few of those issues’ Mr Karera said,
He added that those who do that, sometimes exchange documents in washrooms, knowing there are CCTV cameras around the airport. He says these are some of the initial challenges being faced with the implementation of the visa waiver and is warning perpetrators to desist from it.
AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA
Recounting how it used to take two to three days to travel from Rwanda to Accra, Ghana’s head of consulate in Rwanda, Mr Karera celebrated how the journey had now been reduced to some four hours with Rwanda’s national airline flying from Accra but added that Rwanda is also looking forward to the smooth and long-term implementation of the AfCFTA (headquartered in Accra) in a manner that allows for the actual free trade to happen.
He argued that protectionism can give way to open borders without compromising on sovereignty but promoting trade at the same time.
SUPPORT FROM GHANA EXPORT PROMOTION AUTHORITY
Chief Executive Officer from the Ghana Export Promotion, who led key players within Ghana’s hospitality industry, was optimistic that members of the familiarisation tour are already hinging towards ideas that will lead to concrete decisions.
Dr Afua Asabea Asare said the authority is tourism-focused and open to support Ghanaian businesses to penetrate the Rwandan market, especially non-traditional exports.
We should take advantage of the AFCTA and explore other markets in Africa and for me, Rwanda and the east represent some of the interesting places that we may not have in our country. I am seeing us having a package where we bring our people to take advantage of the best of the east and then they bring their people to take advantage of the best of the west. They don’t have a lot of our products, so why don’t we take advantage and bring our products here? Our products are doing well in US and the UK, she added.
In the next few days, Joy News will bring you scenes from Rwanda as the country readies for Ghanaian penetration following its opening of a high commission in Ghana; a move Ghana has indicated, it intends to reciprocate.