Rwanda will examine ways of supporting its packaging industry, but will not backpedal on its decade-old ban on plastic packaging.
President Paul Kagame told manufacturers and business people that the country would not go back to plastics.
He was responding to pleas from the Rwandan business community during a Meet the President function at the Kigali Convention Centre on December 5, where they called for a review of the policy that has been in force since 2008.
Rakesh Sukbar, the promoter of SRB Investment Rwanda Ltd, a paper bags factory in the Kigali Free Economic Zone, complained that cheap paper bags from Uganda and Kenya were eating into the local packaging market as they are more competitive on pricing.
He added that as a result, the five paper bag factories in the country were largely idle, operating at 25 to 30 per cent capacity.
Mr Rakesh suggested a restrictive tax which makes use of paper bags from the region expensive as the local Rwandan industries have built capacity.
“Kenya and Uganda have not put a ban on polythene bags therefore paper bag manufacturers from those countries find it easy to export to Rwanda as they do not have local competition,” he said.
Together, the five paper bag factories in the country have an installed capacity of 700 tonnes annually. The current market demand for paper bags, according to industrial players is between 250 and 300 metric tonnes annually.
Rwanda imports almost all packaging materials — including sacks, folding non-corrugated paper, corrugated fibreboard and laminated UHT milk packets. Official data shows that in 2012 the country spent $24.6 million in the importation of packaging materials.
The private sector is also pilling pressure on Rwanda government to lift the 2006 ban on non-biodegradable plastic for Rwanda to compete favourably within the region.