June 11, 2019

$3m Cross-border Market Lays Empty in Rubavu District

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The Rubavu Cross-Border Market completed in March is a magnificent facility. A tour however shows there is no business taking place there.

Today, there are a handful of people operating stalls in the market. Some traders say they go without sales for entire day.

The market features 160 stalls, 17 lockups, 5 cold rooms, warehouse, processing units, a kindergarten and other large rooms that can be transformed to serve as office facilities.

There is less than 5 percent occupancy of the $3m (Rwf 2.8billion) facility, despite having good roads leading to it, as well as clean surroundings.

The few traders who are inside selling mainly food items say they were called to occupy space by local authorities as the district prepared for visit of President Paul Kagame.

The head of state visited Rubavu on May 9 as part of a tour of North and western provinces.

It therefore suggests that right from March 21 when TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), handed over the facility to the Trade and Industry Ministry, until Kagame’s visit, there was no program to encourage occupancy.

One woman trader says when she was called to pick a stall, she had no plans of getting it. Local officials pleaded with her to take the stall “so that in case the President abruptly decides to check on the market, he would find business ongoing”.

Local traders say they have not been told by officials how much it will cost them to get a room or stall.

Amid this uncertainty, not many are enthusiastic about acquiring the stores there, as they expect the prices to be too high.

The section meant for banks is empty, yet all Rwanda’s banks and international ones have big branches in Rubavu, as it is one of the major cities. Rubavu also enjoys multimillion dollar cross-border trade from Goma.

The exterior of the Rubavu Cross-border Market

Rubavu is also home for eastern Congo’s dollar-carrying businesspeople and UN employees.

During the weekends, it is virtually impossible to get a hotel room because they would have been filled by arrivals from Congo, and some from Kigali going there to enjoy beach life.

The Rubavu Cross-border Market was billed as a converging place for Rwandan and Congolese traders, giving them a decent place to conduct their deals.

Gilbert Habyarimana, the mayor of Rubavu district told local media that they are yet to finalise an agreement with the Trade and Industry ministry on standards the market must keep. Until then, he say, traders should register for stalls.

The irony, however, is that there are small traders outside the large compound selling food items, which are also sold in the market – leaving traders inside with no clients.

Traders, who are unwilling to be quoted, say in total less than 50 clients come for shopping in the facility.

The other side of the magnificent facility

Meanwhile, at the opening of the Rubavu market in March, TMEA chief executive officer, Patience Umutesi said the agency is to build similar markets and and port in Rusizi and Rustiro Districts, all in same region bordering Lake Kivu.

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