Rwanda says it is reviewing its trade list with Uganda before its goods can be allowed on its market, almost four months after opening its main border.
While free movement of people between the countries has resumed, there is still restriction on imports from Uganda.
This week, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente told a press briefing that the process of reviewing the trade list is almost complete and the goods will soon be allowed in the market subject to quality checks.
The review was necessary because Rwanda wants to enforce quality as well as protect local manufacturers who had started producing some goods that were previously imported from Uganda, he said.
Ugandan products, the PM said, must comply with the set standards on the Rwandan market.
“What I can possibly say is that trade between the two countries will resume very soon,” Dr Ngirente said on Wednesday after the launch of the second phase of the Economic Recovery Fund (ERF).
Ugandan importers and exporters will be required to apply for a licence from the Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) for industrial- manufactured products and Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition, and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) for agricultural products.
“Rwanda is investing in developing its local manufacturing sector, including the promotion of Made in Rwanda products. That's why we are regulating importation of goods,” Theobald Habiyaremye, the FDA division manager for Foods and Drugs Import and Export, told The EastAfrican.
Cement was one of Uganda’s top exports to Rwanda before the common border was closed.
However, over the last two years, Rwanda turned to importing cement from Tanzania and Kenya in addition to setting up one more local factory.
Currently, there are two existing local cement makers, Cimerwa and Prime cement, which have an annual installed capacity of 600,000 metric tonnes each.
Hima Cement Uganda, one of the top cement exporters to Rwanda, recently told The EastAfrican that their exports to Rwanda have not resumed though there are ongoing discussions to resume exports.
“We are currently not yet exporting to Rwanda but we are resuming soon. We have, however, already sent a verification team to Rwanda, which will help inform our decision,” said Caroline Kezaabu, the company’s communication manager.
Other commodities are aluminium, maize, soap, electricity, pharmaceutical products, and fuel.
Uganda’s Ministry of Trade estimated that Uganda lost over $200 million in export earnings to Rwanda because of the border closure, leaving a major dent since formal exports to Rwanda comprised 5.8 per cent of Uganda’s merchandise exports in 2018.