Private sector body seeks ways to help local firms become competitive

This low-cost house made by STRAWTEC from prefabricated materials could be one of the attractions at the annual Made-in-Rwanda expo. The firm uses rice and maize stalks to make building materials. / Marie Anne Dushimimana

The annual Made-in-Rwanda expo will go a long way in helping solve the challenges of poor marketing, product promotion and branding that still hinder the growth of the industrial sector and competitiveness of locally-produced goods, according to Private Sector Federation (PSF).

Eric Kabeera, the head of communications and marketing at PSF, said many local producers and traders don’t understand the importance of marketing and brand promotion or using proper and appealing packaging.

“That’s why PSF and trade and industry ministry are working together to help them to market their products through various channels including exhibitions under the Made-in-Rwanda initiative. This way, they will appreciate why they must promote their products or services among the public and target markets,” he said.

They are also encouraging local firms to invest in production of quality packaging materials, saying that right packaging plays a big role in attracting buyers, he added.

Kabeera was, last week, speaking ahead of this year’s expo scheduled to start tomorrow November 29 to December 5 at the Gikondo expo ground in Kicukiro. The trade fair will be the fourth edition of the annual Made-in-Rwanda exhibition.

Promoting standards

Kabeera said PSF has organised a symposium slated for December 5 to discuss challenges that have made local products less competitive on the local, regional and global markets.

The conference will bring together government institutions in charge of Made-in-Rwanda programme, PSF members, traders and other key players.

This year, PSF has set strict standard guidelines to ensure only firms that meet requirements participate in the exhibition. “Not everyone is allowed to exhibit his products in this expo. We first check if the products comply with local or international quality standards,” he said in an interview with The New Times.

So far, 450 firms have been registered for the trade show, exceeding previous projection of 400 exhibitors. The Made-in-Rwanda campaign has helped the country reduce its import bill. Formal imports declined by about 10.6 per cent during the first half of the year on the back of increased consumption of locally-made products, central bank figures indicate.

Ready for the show

Meanwhile, it was a beehive of activity as exhibitors were putting final touches on their stalls at Gikondo showground.

Sustainable construction materials maker, STRAWTEC, is one of the firms that were working on their stalls.

Suleyman Mpayimana, an employee of the firm, was optimistic the expo would give them a good platform to showcase their affordable construction technologies and housing materials.

The company manufactures building materials from agricultural waste, like rice and wheat stalks, and also builds moveable affordable houses.

Mpayimana said the adopted building technology, which is used in western countries like in Germany, France, and the USA.

Free entrance

In a related development, Kabeera said showgoers will this year not be charged entry fees, saying that the move was aimed at attracting more people to the expo “in order sensitise them about local products”.

“We want to change the Rwandan mind-set about locally-made products. We want people to understand that we produce quality products to increase their market share and competitiveness,” he added.

This way, buyers will be inclined to first make inquiries on local market before deciding to import products from abroad, the PSF publicist said.