The Kisoro LC5 Chairperson Abel Bizimana has blamed the slow business between Uganda and Rwanda, despite the border reopening in March this year, on non-tariff barriers imposed by the latter.
According to Bizimana, trade between the neighbours is being limited by non-tariff barriers instituted by Rwanda, which has left many, especially small-scale traders out of business.
The latest Bank of Uganda records released for the month of July, indicate that the country exported goods worth 20 billion Shillings to Rwanda.
Before the closure, Ugandan exports to Rwanda — predominantly cement and food — totaled more than 812 billion Shillings in 2018, according to World Bank figures, while Rwanda exported 50 billion Shillings worth of goods to Uganda.
In an interview with Voice of Muhabura, among other things, Bizimana singled out the mandatory Covid-19 test for Rwandans intending to cross to Uganda as a limit to trade between the two countries, since small-scale traders have been scared by the 5,000 Rwandan Francs test fee.
“If a person is crossing from Rwanda and you tell him it’s a must to test for Covid, is that not a barrier? Uganda would rather be the one asking for a test, but it’s not. There are other limitations that discourage traders.” Bizimana said.
Since the reopening of the border in March this year, Bizimana says Rwanda has blocked most of the items that Ugandans used to export, leaving traders stranded. He says that only a few farm produce and manufactured goods are allowed for export to Rwanda, while Uganda would like to import almost everything that has market.
He urged the two countries to cater for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs who are currently out of business.
The LC5 Chairperson says that “many things have been blocked. But we are exporting farm produce like sorghum, potatoes, cassava, and soft drinks like novida. But this is done by strong businessmen who can pay taxes and maneuver the limitations… I pity small-scale traders who have been left struggling”.
Bizimana urges that if the borders were indeed reopened and relations restored, trade should not be staggering between the two brotherly nations.
Sanyu Erasmus, the mayor Cyanika Town Council, says most traders left business when the border was closed three years ago, while others shifted to areas like Kisoro town, Bunagana border and Kampala.
He says that the staggering cross-border trade is discouraging many who would have returned to do business with Rwandans. According to him, traders on either side might be tempted to involve in risky smuggling activities to earn a living.
The border closure which lasted nearly three years, saw Uganda’s exports to Rwanda decline to a mere Shillings 230 million in July 2019, following a trade and political dispute between the two regional neighbours.
Rwanda officially reopened its borders with Uganda on March 7. Over the last 35 months when the border was closed, there have been at least four tripartite meetings involving presidents Joao Lourenço of Angola and Mr. Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a series of lower-level meetings between officials of the ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two nations.
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