Following UNCTAD’s Ecommerce Week in April 2019 and on the cusp of a new partnership with EIF to boost ecommerce, Rwanda’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva discusses the state of play for online trade in the country
Are people in Rwanda engaging in ecommerce?
Rwandan coffee and handicrafts are already being sold online for export on a small scale, as well as services such as tourism. There are also excellent Rwandan IT services being promoted online in domestic and East African markets.
What is Rwanda doing to change its policy and regulatory frameworks to lay the foundations for improved ecommerce?
Rwanda has a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for ecommerce. We recently passed a law covering the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector and providing guidance on all things related to that. Rwanda is also continuing to work to ensure that the relevant laws and regulations are benchmarked against international best practices. But we still have to work on data protection laws and regulations.
What is Rwanda doing to facilitate international e-payments in the country?
Rwanda recently passed new regulations to facilitate electronic payments, and a consumer protection law related to financial services is being drafted by the National Bank.
Debit and credit cards have had little success in penetrating the economy, but 38 percent of Rwandans subscribe to mobile money services and mobile money agents are widely available. We still need measures to reduce costs, especially high commission rates for payments, and to encourage the integration of different mobile money systems.
Mobile money has become the preferred method of paying for goods and services in ecommerce in Rwanda, so we are making progress.
Supporting ecommerce in Rwanda will help local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). What kinds of support do Rwanda's SMEs need and how can ecommerce offer solutions?
Rwanda is collaborating with the German Government and the International Trade Centre to establish an ecommerce platform for SMEs. That platform will include services such as skills development, professional photography for products, support in producing catalogues, IT support for e-shops, and advisory services on warehousing, packaging and logistics.
This and other platforms should be able to accept various payment methods, and to be used on a rental or commission basis so that small business can scale up as they grow.
Affordable multimodal platforms will help businesses to adopt IT and to export with the minimum of expenditure and risk. Small suppliers and traders, particularly women, will be able to sell online both wholesale and retail.
Further support for strengthening our ecommerce ecosystem will be provided by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) on a range of issues. Our partnerships with EIF will address the regulatory framework to facilitate the entry of ecommerce services into the economy. But we will also look to speeding up adoption by SMEs of ecommerce-related technology so they can better access markets. The work with EIF will also work on increasing the number of SMEs adopting ecommerce technology as well as analysing international e-payments and what needs there are.
What are you envisioning for Rwanda’s ecommerce sales in the global marketplace?
Rwanda’s ecommerce strategy currently being drafted by our Ministry of Trade with assistance from UNCTAD will identify the sectors that have a good chance of success in the global ecommerce marketplace. The Made in Rwanda initiative will help us identify and promote emerging innovative products and services.
One example of a recent ecommerce success is exports of Rwandan specialty coffee to the Chinese market, with huge benefits for both Rwandan exporters and Chinese consumers by eliminating the intervention and remuneration of intermediaries, thus lowering the consumer price while raising the exporter’s revenue.
We hope to foster more trade success like this so our small businesses can thrive and others can enjoy our special Rwanda products.