Tanzania and Rwanda this week agreed in principle to pursue a new partnership based on developing more innovative, ICT-based trade and business services for mutual benefit.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame was in Dar es Salaam on Thursday with his delegation for a two-day working visit while on his way back from a summit in Zimbabwe that was aimed at promoting digital solutions on the continent.
Kagame had a private meeting with Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan later in the day.
Briefing the media after the presidential meeting at State House in Dar es Salaam, both Samia and Kagame said it had been "constructive" in tabling what the Tanzanian leader described as new ideas for innovative ways of pushing the two countries' trade and commercial relations forward.
Kagame commended Tanzania's willingness to further strengthen existing trade logistics and connectivity ties for mutual benefit, "enabling our people to develop faster and our companies to compete better in global markets".
"Africa's entrepreneurial youth give us a comparative advantage, but we have to create an enabling environment for them and that's why we are here," Kagame said.
Samia said their talks were centred on how to improve other communication and connectivity channels for purposes of facilitating more commercial efficiency between Tanzania and Rwanda and elsewhere.
“However, some of the ideas tabled would need further work on both sides in order to be brought to fruition,” she added.
She directed the two countries' Joint Permanent Commission and a joint implementation committee to meet in Tanzania ‘quickly’ and, together, work out all the nitty-gritty technical details before they can proceed to the signing of binding agreements.
Level not yet reached
According to Samia, trade between Tanzania and Rwanda has not reached the level that fully reflects the resources that each of country has or the relationship they enjoy, and could therefore be boosted by further infrastructural expansion.
Official figures show that Tanzania's exports to Rwanda increased steadily in value from $60.1 million in 2017 to $277.8 million in 2021 while imports from Rwanda rose at a slower pace from $1.3 million to $2.2 million during the same period.
Rwanda uses the port of Dar es Salaam for over 80 percent of its inbound and outbound cargo through the central corridor while some of its submarine sea cables’ IT infrastructure also currently passes through the same port.
Rwanda’s transit cargo up
According to the Tanzania Ports Authority, Rwandan transit cargo volumes through the port of Dares Salaam went up from 1.06 million tonnes to 1.366 million tonnes between 2017 and 2021. President Samia said expansion work currently in progress at both the Dar es Salaam and Tanga ports will help increase overall capacity to handle more Rwandan cargo.
She said they had also discussed progress in the Rusumo Falls hydropower project and the two leaders agreed to attend the upcoming launch together.
The project, which will provide 80MW of electricity to be shared equally between Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi, is reportedly 98.3 percent complete and has been reset for official launch in June this year after several delays.
The annual Transform Africa Summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe earlier in the week, focused on accelerating the continent’s digital revolution, with Mr Kagame attending as chairperson of the Smart Africa Alliance.
Five other heads of state were also present at this year's sixth edition of the summit. They were host Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema, Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera and King Mswati III of Eswatini.
In a keynote address that he delivered to the summit on Wednesday before he left for Dar es Salaam, President Kagame called for more use of smart technology to reduce barriers to trade among African countries.
"We need to make the digital identities of individuals and businesses portable across borders to further this end,” he said.