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The Minister of Trade and Industry, François Kanimba, has said that the government spends over $100 million on imported second hand garments and shoes.

To address this, Kanimba told a meeting on Monday that they will soon establish manufacturing industries to produce locally made garments. The meeting was a collaboration of the association of Rwandan tailors and private sector federation (PSF).

“For three months, we have been discussing with tailors and shoemakers how they can work together and increase exports. Much emphasis is also on improving the quality of products since some consumers opt to import goods because local ones are poorly processed. We want to work together such that we can increase production and get rid of secondhand garments,” he said.

He stressed that the issue of importing secondhand garments has become an East African Community (EAC) concern, noting that regional leaders have agreed to end it.

“As Rwandans, we are struggling for dignity. We need to stop importing secondhand garments because we don’t know who used them first! And we can replace them,” said the minister.

In 2014, the Made in Rwanda campaign was launched to ensure that Rwandans commit and increase demand for local goods and services. It was also to improve the capacity to export by securing jobs and creating new ones.

The president of the association of Rwandan tailors, Mukantwali Alvera, said that they can cover the demand gap filled by imported goods, noting that it’s the reason they formed an association.

Tailors during the meeting.

“We have formed a company called Kigali Garment Centre that will be registered by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) within six months. Since government plans to establish garment industries, we will be making garments for both sexes,” she said.

Mukantwali adds that with government’s help, their company will be successful and tailors will invest in and showcase their talents. “We intend to have garment centers across the country to help us have enough products and also know the number of tailors countrywide,” she said.

Members of the Kigali Garment Centre will start with Rwf 2 billion for buying equipment, including tailoring machines. There is also a share of Rwf 20000 for each member.

Mukantwali further told The Rwanda Focus that they would like government to train and equip them with advanced skills.

“We would love to have a school centre for professional tailors such that all tailors can be trained and improve their work,” she adds.

Minister Kanimba responded to the request by saying that in 2014, the government and C&H – a Chinese company – signed an agreement under which C&H is expected to start a training base.

“C&H Garments Company is training 300 people from industries in China who will come and train Rwandans,” Kanimba said

Yvette Mukarwema, PSF’s chief operations officer, urged tailors to work together to increase products which will cover the demand market.

“We are still seeking investors such that we can have many garment industries. Your association should be strong we are ready to support you as you develop the country,” she said.

According to research by PSF, the dominance of imports over exports results in lower employment and a reduction in profits of industries and service providers.

Under the second economic development and poverty reduction strategy (EDPRS2), government targets to develop urbanization and develop secondly cities to create jobs. The cities are Musanze in Northern Province, Nyagatare in Eastern Province, Huye and Muhanga in Southern province, Rubavu and Rusizi in Western Province.

According to minister Kanimba, each of the above cities will have a garment industry not only to create jobs, but to also make sure that production is enough. The cities will have industrial parks as well.

“We hope that by the end of 2016, we will have some industries in the secondary cities, even the institutions for professional tailors. We should buy our own products instead of importing such that our local industries develop,” he said.

Rwanda’s population of over 11 million people needs garments which cannot be satisfied by one textile industry, UTEXRWA, and other small cooperatives which produce handmade clothes.

Asked where Rwanda will get raw materials such as cotton, Kanimba said that these will be imported from EAC member countries.

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