The biggest event on the annual calendar of private sector development in Rwanda ends today having attracted exhibitors from 32 countries worldwide. The 16th edition of RITF was organized by Rwanda private sector federation in collaboration with the government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Trade and industry (MINICOM) and COMESA Business Council (CBC) under the theme “Linking Business to markets”.
Benjamin Gasamagera, the chairman of the Private sector Federation PSF Rwanda said that this theme reflect a package of solutions that relate to each other. Knowledge and experience sharing, market fairness, business networking, innovation, value addition, access to competitive funding and many more are some of the solutions that RIFT brought to business community that took part in the exhibition. He encouraged exhibitors to take time off their busy exposition schedules to actively participate in B2B meetings and forge partnerships for various investments or trade transactions.
This year’s trade fair has registered a record participation of exhibitors from many countries than last year. Hannington Namara, the CEO of Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation was pleased to see that all the 707 stands were occupied by exhibitors from 32 countries compared to 20 that were present in 2012 edition. This represents an 18% increase compared to 491 recorded last year. He pointed out that the theme of this year’s trade fair aims to take a deeper look at what would determine the success of businesses in various markets spread across the African continent.
The 2013 trade fair was unique in that it was organized alongside a 2 days conference under the theme “ Linking Business to market, promoting the manufacturing sector in the COMESA region”. Maureen Twahirwa, the head of communication and marketing at PSF said that it was an honor for Rwanda to host the 1st COMESA MANUFACTURER’S REGIONAL DIALOGUE whereby the chairman of Rwanda Manufacturing Association, Robert Bayigamba was elected by his counterparts from the COMESA region to chair the regional association of manufacturers.
Exhibitor’s point of view
The 2013 RITF has recorded a massive participation of local as well as international exhibitors from the region and a far. More than 500 exhibitors from more than 30 countries were expected to take part in this year’s fair according to a press release by the Rwanda Private Sector Federation. The fair was also expected to attract a record number of 250.000 visitors according to the same press release. The sectors that took part in the this year’s trade fair include telecommunication and IT, Agricultural equipment, machinery, construction and housing, Textiles, clothing and garments, handicrafts products, food and beverages among others.
Among the exhibitor that I talked to are from public institutions in Rwanda that had come to showcase their services to the public. The National Electoral Commission was represented at the fair and its stand was always full of visitors that had come to inquire about the upcoming parliamentarian elections that are scheduled in September 16th up to 18th, 2013. Clementine Nyirabahizi, in charge of civic education at NEC said that on average they received between 800 to 2000 visitors every day. “This is the second time we come at the fair and the first one was in 2010 for the presidential election and we are here to offer registration services for the upcoming parliamentarian elections”, noted the head of civic education at NEC.
Rwanda Development Board, a public institution in charge of promoting investment in Rwanda had also set up a stand in this year’s RITF. RDB is an institution that has many departments and each department is in charge of promoting investment in its sector. I met Emmanuel Mucyo in charge of promoting investment in agricultural projects at RDB and told me that the specific reason why RDB was present at the fair is to make sure that the public know that RDB is there to promote local as well as foreign direct investment. He reiterated that RDB aims to promote Small and Medium Enterprises SMEs and it was there to showcase to its visitors various opportunities that exist in this sector so that Rwandans can be motivated to start small business that create most employment.
Muhammed Shahzad an exhibitor of jewelries from Karachi in Pakistan said that between 20 to 25 exhibitors from Pakistan are present at the 2013 RITF. “This is my second time to attend this trade fair and the exhibition is very good as we are doing well in terms of sales though last year was good for me than this year”. However the Pakistani exhibitor complained that the bathrooms at the trade fair were not well maintained and requested the organizers to look at this issue in the next editions. “As Muslims we need to find water in the bathrooms as it is very important in our religion”. He also urged organizers to find ways to deal with dust in the next editions and was suggesting putting carpet in order to deal with dust inside the stands.
Charles N. Kibochi, an exhibitor of bags from Nairobi in Kenya said that he deals in venchas Must Bags meaning that every lady must have his bag. We have very good bags and you can also see that our attendance is high sometimes we are overwhelmed by customers. This is my second time here and I came back because the response was good last year. “Generally I think this fair is above average when you compare with other international trade fair”, said the Kenyan exhibitor. He urged the organizers to build stands for exhibitors instead of them doing it for themselves. “ I think they can still make more money by instead of us constructing our stands they can provide us with ready stands and we are ready to pay for it. In addition to that those stands can be used in other upcoming fairs.”
The National Youth Council sponsored ten young entrepreneurs belonging to various cooperatives from different districts of the country to come to the 2013 RITF. Paul Habizeza noted that it is in the mission of the NYC to help young people create employment. He reiterated that It is in this regard that we have sponsored ten projects belonging to youth to come to the trade fair and showcase what they do and if possible make network with others. The National Women Council also sponsored 32 women coming from different districts of the country to come to showcase their products. Jeanette Nyiransengimana an exhibitor of cradle for children from Nyagatare district said that the National Women Council was impressed by her products through competitions that were held in districts then decided to sponsor her to take part in this year’s trade fair.
Maturity of Rwanda’s private sector
The success of the 2013 RITF is another milestone indicating that the Rwandan private sector is slowly and steadily gearing toward maturity. The minister of Trade and Industry was quoted by the expo magazine saying that the government of Rwanda has invested both resources and energies to create a conducive business environment. He further noted that Rwanda continues to take a leap up the rankings on the World Economic Forum WEF global competitiveness index report to 63rd out of 14o countries spanning the world and the 52nd in doing business globally.
Through interviews that IGIHE conducted during the trade fair, it was clear that the public was satisfied by the general organization of this year’s trade fair. Megan Booth and Jack Green, both students from Dorset in the UK who have been in Rwanda for six weeks as volunteers told IGIHE that taking part in the 2013 RITF was very exciting and that they are taking back home good memories of Rwanda. They saluted the organizers of the event to arrange such a trade fair for the private sector in Rwanda, COMESA region and above to meet and showcase their products and services. This is a step towards regional integration and intra-African trade, said the British students in international relations at Southampton University.