What you will make of the opportunities from accessing a market of 1.2 billion people? That was the challenge to participants of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) organised “Golden Circle Breakfast.”
The federation aims to hold these breakfast meetings, every quarter. They bring together businesses, industry, institutions and organisations involved in business development.
The forum offers more than a chance to network. It also brings together the private and public sectors, providing an opportunity for policy makers to hear feedback about the effects of business policy, directly from business people themselves.
Officials from the ministry of finance and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), presented a number of new reforms in taxation. Many of the changes were a direct response to earlier feedback from businesses themselves. The officials went away promising to study other changes suggested at the forum.
This month’s breakfast meeting, may arguably be the most important the PSF will have organised. It was combined with the celebration of Africa Day, and the ongoing preparation for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Among the main speakers, was Protais Musoni, who combines his role as a commissioner in the governing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party, with the chairmanship of the Rwanda chapter of the Pana-African Movement (PAM).
Musoni reminded his audience that Pana-Africanism was always about acting in concert, thinking as one unified continent, rather than as merely individual nations. Talking about the opportunities that will come with the AFCFTA, he noted that Africa is 17% of the world’s population, yet accounts for only 3% of the world’s GDP. The AFCFTA, with its removal of trade barriers, to encourage intra-African trade, could be an opportunity to raise Africa’s performance.
When Musoni was at school, the idea that he would be carrying a powerful computer in his pocket, in the form of a mobile telephone, was only a theory about the brave new world of the future.
He has seen the dream become reality, beyond what he might have imagined, so that now, as he urged businesses to think about how they can contribute to Africa’s industrialisation, he was supported by the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, who was beamed into the room, from Nairobi, Kenya, where he was attending an AFC meeting.
The Vice-Chairman of the East African Business Council, businessman Denis Karera, warned African business people in general, and Rwandans in particular, that if they did not rise to the challenge and take up the opportunities offered by the AFCFTA, others from outside the continent were ready to take their place.
And the ball is in the business people’s court. There is no shortage of support from the government’s side. Representing the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Diane Sayinzoga, assured businesses of the organisation’s support, including using its partnership with similar organisations around the continent, to facilitate any viable plans for cross border trade.
Opening the meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of PSF, Stephen Ruzibiza, jokingly told his guests, that his only role was to bring the facts, the rest was up to them. Many a true word is spoken in jest.