PUBLISHED ON June 29th, 2023

Women traders urged to embrace cooperatives for safety of Made in Rwanda products

By Elias Hakizimana.

Women investors in cross-border trade are encouraged to embrace cooperatives in order to make it easier to move from informal to formal trade, with quality and safety assurance of products that fit for local and regional markets.

The message was delivered by Richard Niwenshuti, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade on Friday, June 23, 2023 during the exhibition and graduation ceremony of Women Cross-Border Traders (WCBT) who were supported by Profemmes-Twese Hamwe (PFTH) to improve their businesses.

The event was held in the premises of PFTH, gathering together over 70 women who represents 143 cooperatives of over 7,000 WCBTs from the nine (9) borders countrywide. The impacts of their activities reach to over 18,000 households.

Richard Niwenshuti, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade said that the achievements by these women in advancing trade means that Rwandans now understands the policy of working under cooperatives.

Richard Niwenshuti, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade addressing WCBTs.

“The activities they showcased here testify that they have understood the rationale of working in cooperatives, secondly, improving their businesses from informal to formal trade by investing in locally-made products that qualify local and regional markets is also a success, thanks to the efforts by partner institutions; Profemmes Twese Hamwe and Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) who are supporting the Made in Rwanda Policy, working in cooperatives and cross-border trade.” Niwenshuti said.

He added that the government will continue to support women cross-border traders to have access to the regional markets and to help them resolve some queries happening at the borders.

“We also need to help them improve the quality and safety of their products, some of them have already embraced ZAMUKANUBUZIRANENGE Programme, which means they are moving towards safety assurance of their products, fitting both local and regional markets,” he said.

Some of these women have invested in fashion and clothing, others in cosmetics and food processing.

“As the Ministry of Trade, we will further collaboration with these partners to take Made in Rwanda policy to an advanced level to make sure we reduce imports,” Niwenshuti added, calling up on Rwandans to invest in locally-made products as the market is very promising, especially agro-processing.

Richard Niwenshuti, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade giving a certificate to one of the WCBTs at the graduationn ceremony.

The move has been an opportunity to foster peer learning and Business-to-Business (B2B) among Rwandans especially women through sharing impact stories and testimonies.

Emma Marie Bugingo, Executive Director of Profemmes-Twese Hamwe (PFTH) said that the initiatives aimed to show the journey of women in Cross-border trade, to foster working together in cooperatives as an efficient manner to get benefits.

“We gave them training and we accompanied them to embrace formal trade as they used to face several challenges when they were doing fraudulent trade, since 2019 now, we helped them with over Rwf200 million to buy professional kits to process their products with the needed safety, our aim is to help them to sell to the international markets,” Mrs.Bugingo said.

She added that improving relationships with neighbor countries and linking WCBT to the markets are the main efforts the country needs to make.

Emma Marie Bugingo, Executive Director of Profemmes-Twese Hamwe (PFTH) handing over a certificate to one of the WCBTs

Besides cross-border trade empowerment for women, Profemmes-Twese Hamwe also support another session of over 8000 women through other projects sponsored by other partners.

“We thank PSF, BDF, Local authority, and other stakeholders to support PFTH, we aim to help Rwandans graduate from poverty by empowering women at all levels,” Mr. Bugingo added.

David Butera, Acting Director of Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) in Rwanda has commended the 12 years of partnership with PFTH, noting that they aim to continue growing and developing together in empowering women. He pledged support in helping WCBT to get standardization mark for made in Rwanda products.

David Butera, Acting Director of Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) in Rwanda

Testimonies of Beneficiaries

“Before we got the support, we were working as fraudsters, we were raped, we thank PFTH for training and support, we were hiding, they trained us to work together and to get business documents such as boom records,” said one of the WCBTs from Bugesera district.

“PFTH established an office near the border to help us in this journey, they also trained us on the value chain of our products, we grow fish in lake Kivu and sell them, we learned a lot and we thank these partners.” Mariane Nyiraneyimana who has fish business at Rusizi border said.

“We were like a burden to our district, with lack of hygiene on our fishes.We were trained on good preparation and hygiene of our fish products through various training,” another beneficiary from Rusizi said.

‘We also work with microfinance institutions and never keep money at home. We learnt good book record practices and our leaders are not yet eating our money. We need further assistance to replicate achievements in other sectors.” Zerida Nyirahabimana from ‘Dukore Twigire’ Artcraft Cooperative in Burera district said.

These women were advised to join the Private Sector Federation (PSF) in order to strive for their rights, and to ensure good use and maintenance of the facilities they were given, such as the machines that help them in value addition.

Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe (PFTH) is an Umbrella of Rwandan Civil Society Organizations aiming at advancement of women status, peace and development in Rwanda.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.