By: Ismael Kasooha
Ugandan business persons living and operating in Rwanda have appealed to the government to prevail over manufacturers to produce products that conform to standards.
This follows concerns raised by the business community in Kigali that some of the Ugandan products are being rejected in Rwanda for lack of quality assurance by Uganda National Bureau of standards (UNBS).
“Some Ugandan products are being rejected in Rwanda because they are not certified by UNBS and lack seals for quality assurance. We appeal to the government to be stricter on manufacturers so that they can meet the required standards here in Rwanda,” said Fred Ssendawula, the speaker of the Association of Ugandans living and operating in Rwanda.
Ssendawula said that Ugandan business men and women make losses when their products are confiscated for lack of UNBS certification yet they are produced in Uganda.
He said that one needs to apply for an import permit ahead of delivery of these goods at the border points but this involves a long process.
“It is also complicated by the fact that many Ugandan manufacturers are not registered with Uganda National Bureau of Standards. It is hard to get import permits for goods manufactured by businesses which aren’t registered with UNBS,” Ssendawula decried.
Some Ugandan goods are not allowed into Rwanda including cosmetics, non-processed agricultural products, among others.
The other challenges faced by Ugandans in Rwanda include accessing work permits which is very difficult in addition to lack of financial support to grow their businesses.
“We need financial support or short term loans to boost our businesses. Some businesses are struggling and we cannot access any financial support here in Rwanda,” said Ssendawula.
He said that Ugandans working in the informal sector who need to get permits to work in Rwanda, are now stuck in the country.
“Such people are allowed under the treaty that established the EAC to work for up to three months without work permits. But these Ugandans have been stuck in Rwanda since the outbreak of COVID-19 when movement was restricted. They risk being fined as much as USD1000 and are calling on the Ugandan Government to engage Rwanda over the matter,” he added.
The other challenge is Ugandans running businesses in Rwanda and possessing valid visas are being prevented by the Rwanda Revenue Authority from using their personal vehicles with Ugandan number plates within the country beyond three months from the date of last entry. These vehicles are blocked from re-entering the country.
“We request that Rwanda adopts a system used by other EAC countries which enables the authorities to renew permits held by the vehicle owners upon re-entry,” said Ssendawula.
Ugandans in Rwanda voiced their concerns while meeting the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at the Ugandan Embassy in Kigali.
The Association of Ugandans in Rwanda has so far registered over 7,000 Ugandans living and doing business in Kigali and other parts of Rwanda.
Hajji Issa Bogere, the Chairman of the Association of Ugandans in Rwanda said that they were happy that Uganda and Rwanda now have a good and cordial relationship and they are optimistic that this will help them flourish in business.
“We thank both governments in Kampala and Kigali for the good cordial relations and we hope this will enable us to transact business freely,” said Bogere.
He however noted that some Ugandans are held in prisons over non capital crimes while others have been on remand for long periods due to the inability to access lawyers to represent them in the Courts of law.
Dr. Andrew G. Seguya, the Executive Secretary at Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration working with tourists in the countries of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo said that Uganda needs to invest more in the tourist districts because they fetch a lot of money to the economy but tourists are suffering with bad roads.
“Roads in Kisoro and Kabale especially the tourism roads, need to be upgraded to Bitumen standards so that they can last longer and help in generating more revenues from tourism,” said Seguya.
He said that there was no water in Bwindi whether from Kabale or Kisoro side and this limits the tourists time of stay in the area.
Seguya noted that “the country earns over 30million dollars a year from Gorilla permits only but it is sad that they don’t have water at all.”
“We would like to ask the Government of Uganda to help us integrate the DR Congo within the East African Visa because many of our people especially in the tourism sector have to pay 100 dollars every time they cross into Congo and sometimes more charges because DR Congo is somehow unstructured. But now that they have entered the EAC we ask our government to open up negotiations to incorporate DR Congo on the East African Visa like it is with Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda,” said Seguya.
The Deputy Ambassador to Uganda Amb. Margaret Kedisi said that the relations between Uganda and Rwanda were improving day-by-day and assured Ugandans that they will do all it takes to even improve the relations further.
The Prime Minister while addressing Ugandans in Rwanda assured them of government’s commitment to develop the country with several interventions.
“Uganda has initiated several interventions aimed at socio-economic transformation of Ugandans such as Emyooga and the recently introduced Parish Development model (PDM). The country is now on a path to develop into a middle income status,” said Nabbanja.
The Premier assured Ugandans in Rwanda that the government had created an enabling environment for investment and promised to address the issues raised.
The Prime Minister earlier on in the day visited the Kigali Genocide memorial site where she called for harmonious co-existence of all mankind.