Business council offers to defuse Uganda-Rwanda trade deadlock

People crossing the Gatuna border post after it was reopened by Rwanda in March 2022. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • There have been reports of authorities in Rwanda blocking Ugandan goods, three months since re-opening the border between the two countries.

The East African Business Council (EABC) has offered to organise a bilateral business forum between Uganda and Rwanda as a way of restoring trade relations. 

Speaking on the side-lines of a closed door meeting at the Rwandan High Commissioner in Kampala last week, Mr John Bosco Kalisa, the EABC chief executive officer, said whereas there were still some challenges, they were optimistic that trade relations between Rwanda and Uganda will be restored. 

“EABC recently organised a public private dialogue on trade facilitation at the Katuna, Gatuna one stop border post to assess movement of goods and persons. Currently, the border post facilitates only transit cargo, 150 transit trucks and 800 people,” he said.

There have been reports of authorities in Rwanda blocking Ugandan goods, three months since re-opening the border between the two countries.

Rwanda had closed the Katuna border but recently opened it almost three years later.  

Trade between the two countries remains low. As of May, according to data from Ministry of Finance, Uganda’s exports to Rwanda averaged at Shs826.2m per month, a sharp decline from the Shs62.6b monthly average in 2019. 

During the meeting, Mr Stuart Mwesigwa a board member of EABC, told Mr Joseph Rutabana, the Rwandan High Commissioner to the Uganda, that following his assumption of office as new Commonwealth chairman, President Paul Kagame should spearhead deepening intra-East Africa trade and investment as well as forging trade relations with the continent and Commonwealth countries. 

He noted that the business community from Uganda and Rwanda were optimistic and ready to trade when the border fully reopens, adding that Rwanda was an attractive investment destination, which offers a market and connectivity to DR Congo and Burundi. 

Ugandan manufacturers have previously asked EABC and World Trade Organisation to intervene, noting that whereas political and military leaders had been discussing, there were no government-to-government trade talks. 

Recently, Mr Muzamil Mabirah, a policy analyst at Uganda Manufacturers Association, said that whereas they had sought for guidance from government officials, they had only been told to wait as they iron out the remaining points of contention. 

According to Uganda Manufacturers Association, members have not exported goods to Rwanda since the border was opened in January,” he said, noting that it was only people that were moving across.

The meeting followed a series of meetings that EABC had held with Katuna border authorities and different manufacturers to ascertain how they are responding to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on their businesses and their recovery plans.