Bilateral trade between China and Rwanda has registered steady and rapid growth, increasing by 31.2 per cent to $477 million in 2022, compared to the previous year, according to Wang Xuekun, Ambassador of China to Rwanda.
Ambassador Xuekun was speaking on Wednesday, May 17, during the China International Import Expo (CIIE) Promotion Conference held in Kigali.
Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017, the China International Import Expo (CIIE) – one of the major outcomes of the Belt and Road Initiative – is the country’s largest expo. It provides a platform to showcase the national image, promote trade and investment, help companies open new markets, and advance economic globalisation.
Rwanda will be participating at the sixth edition of the expo.
Ambassador Xuekun stated that the development comes at a time when economic and practical cooperation between both countries has achieved a lot, with large projects underway and trade ties increasing.
He stated that, for the first three months of 2023, China’s imports from Rwanda had reached $35 million, an increase of 183 per cent.
“China remains one of Rwanda’s largest trading partners. Last year, China granted zero-tariff treatment for 98 per cent of Rwanda’s export items to China,” he said.
“More Rwandan agricultural products have reached the Chinese market through the ‘green lanes.’ I have much confidence in a good prospect for bilateral trade.”
According to the Chinese envoy, Rwandan firms attach “great importance to the CIIE.”
“This Expo is not only a one-week exhibition that offers you booths to sell goods. It also holds a big economic forum, inviting dignitaries from different countries, officials from international organisations, and outstanding scholars to discuss economic cooperation. There are also numerous side events for investment facilitation, project matching, and other commercial activities.”
For Nelly Mukazayire, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Deputy Chief Executive, Rwanda is an active trading partner of China in terms of both imports and exports.
From 2003, Rwanda registered more than 118 investment projects worth $959.7 million and targeted to create 29,902 jobs.
She also said that China topped the number of investments registered in 2022 with 49 projects of $182.4 million, and on the other hand, Rwanda exported to China, more than $102 million in 2022 dominated by minerals, coffee, and chilli.
“This is the sixth time that Rwanda is going to participate in the CIIE, consecutive participation in the CIIE has led to an increase in the awareness of Rwandan products in the Chinese market.
“The China International Import Expo (CIIE) offers the world’s largest consumer market, as well as an excellent platform for exhibits, trade, and investment opportunities. It is also a good platform to attract Chinese investors,” Mukazayire said.
Meanwhile, Rwandan companies are learning which other products would be of interest to the Chinese market apart from traditional exports of tea and coffee.
Diversifying products key
The expo, according to Ambassador Xuekun, is already one of the most important platforms for accessing the Chinese market.
“With that in mind, I would like to share three suggestions to help our Rwandan friends to better take advantage of the opportunity presented by the CIIE and China’s development.”
First, he said, is to discover and develop more Made in Rwanda products for exporting to China.
“Nowadays, Rwanda’s coffee, dried chili, and stevia have successfully entered the Chinese market. But what can be next? Rwanda could have a more diversified and distinct portfolio of exports to China.”
Second, Ambassador Xuekun added, is to enhance productivity and supply chain integration through stronger cooperation of private sectors, giving an example of agri-business.
“I used to chat with some Chinese businesspersons. They wish to import a big bulk of Rwanda’s agricultural products, including dried chili and avocado. They all mentioned one difficulty for Rwandan products; supply in big numbers for the Chinese market. The problem could either be, not enough production, too long a time for goods consolidation, or other logistical problems.”
Through the platform of CIIE, however, attracting investments from China and other countries could be one solution.
The third is to promote exchanges in all levels and various areas, he pointed out.
“The expo attracts officials, scholars, and business owners who can all find suitable side events. Therefore, I encourage everyone who has an interest to go there, to converse with people they meet, and explore chances to the greatest extent,” he said.