Trade wrangles between Uganda and Rwanda have stopped most cross-border movements between the two countries, a situation that has taken a toll on the citizens of the two countries.
A key feature of border towns are the big market days, which are mostly on the Ugandan side of the border whose activities are pretty much-grounded without Rwandan customers. Uganda’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde early last month advised traders to opt for other markets within the East African Community region and beyond in order to survive.
To keep their businesses going, Ugandan traders have gradually turned to other markets in the region to sell their goods as the border standoff between Kigali and Kampala continues into the third month with no solution in sight.
Giant companies that have been exporting a substantial amount of their products to Kigali are now eyeing internal market as well as Congolese, South Sudanese, Kenyan and Tanzanian markets.
“We still have open borders to the north (South Sudan), open borders to the west (DR Congo), and open borders to the east (Kenya). Now we are focusing on increasing our market share locally as well as exports to these countries,” noted one businessman.
In as much as Uganda traders are exploring other markets, most of them still have contracts to supply Rwanda but for as long as the borders remain closed, these businesses will be shrinking, illustrating how opening up borders is critical for trade and investment across the region.
“All goods destined from Uganda to Rwanda or those that are branded ‘Made in Uganda’ continue to be rejected by Rwandan authorities. Only those goods from Tanzania and Kenya could enter Rwanda. If Rwandan authorities discover that goods are coming from Uganda they will order them back or destroy them. It is that bad,” noted Issa Ssekito, the spokesperson of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA)
To beat the odds, some Ugandan traders are currently buying goods made and branded in other East African countries and selling them in Rwanda.