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Rwandan entrepreneurs assess export readiness at Hub AGOA workshop

Published on March 10, 2016

Nearly 50 entrepreneurs attended the Hub’s recent African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) workshop in Kigali, Rwanda. From export-ready firms with considerable operations, such as C & H Garment, to startup home décor enterprises.Rwanda_Workshop_Kamanzi._smallJPG.JPG

The most engaged participants of the workshop were young Rwandan designers who stood out in their multi-patterned African print dresses and suits. A look that U.S. buyers love, assured the Hub’s Home Décor and Fashion Advisor. But, the Hub’s advisor also noted that international buyers would demand fabric consistency for large orders, which is a difficult feat for designers who purchase their fabrics from local markets with inconsistent supply.

fashion_designers_Rwanda.jpgLike the designers, many of Rwanda’s entrepreneurs face challenges in becoming truly export ready, a concept that the Hub’s Apparel Advisor drove home by having each workshop attendee conduct a seven question export ready test.  Sample question: Do you know how to properly cost your product?

The Hub’s three workshop seminars are designed to help alleviate export-ready challenges by detailing AGOA opportunities by sector, outlining the AGOA export process, and suggesting avenues for access to finance.  All seminars include in-country specialists who are directly involved in trade facilitation or provide logistical or financial resources.

Many of the young designer noted that they were especially thankful for the Access to Finance Seminar. They want to reach “ready-to-wear,” a phrase to describe clothes made for a general market and sold through stores as opposed to custom orders. Ready-to-wear clothing demands consistency in standards and greater investment; it also yields bigger business and moneymaking opportunities.

“From the quiz, I learned that I am not yet ready to export, but soon. The financing seminar was very helpful. I now know where I am going to start,” said Cynthia Repairi.

Repairi is a dress designer who is currently selling custom orders through her sister who lives in Denver, Colorado. She’s excited about the U.S interest in her product and wants to do more. 

Do you have an export-ready business? Would you like to access the U.S. through AGOA? Check out our AGOA web page to learn more. http://www.eatradehub.org/agoa

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Opening Remarks

Economic and Commercial Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Mike Lurie, and Director General for the Rwandan Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Robert Opirah, provided opening remarks for the Hub’s March 8 AGOA workshop in Kigali, Rwanda.

Both Mr. Lurie and Mr. Opirah addressed some of the constraints and opportunities for Rwandan trade. Mr. Lurie cited recent meetings with Rwandan exporters, where firms commented that regional transportation links are underdeveloped and that shipping times and costs are prohibitively high. Indeed, in the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business Report, Rwanda ranks #2 in Africa, yet in “trading across borders,” it’s ranked #156 our of 189 countries.

Still, Mr. Lurie and Mr. Opirah noted that thanks to the Central and Northern Corridor Initiatives, there has been a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to transport a container from the Port of Mombasa or Dar es Salaam to Kigali – from 21 days in 2013, to five days in 2016.  

To further tackle key impediments to trade, the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (the Hub) is supporting a collaborative effort between Rwanda’s public and private actors to develop a roadmap for AGOA utilization. The Hub’s AGOA workshops are part of that roadmap – helping Rwandan entrepreneurs gain valuable insight into U.S. market requirements and demands, and helping them form strategies for entry.