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Interview: Rwanda Revenue Authority Boss Explains Effects Of COVID-19, Loss Of Rwf100B And Waiver Of Rwf5B




The Minister of Finance, with powers granted to him by law, and following recommendations of a Tax Policy Committee of July 3, 2020, waived off tax penalties, late payments on interests due to hardships caused by the effect of COVID-19 pandemic in the months of March, April and May and corporate income tax of 2019. Subsequently, the ministry approved applications worth over Rwf5billion submitted by the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA).

This decision came after several other adjustments made to ease tax burdens on businesses. RRA Commissioner-General, Pascal Bizimana Ruganintwali spoke to Taarifa about the rationale behind recent fiscal measures taken, the effect of the pandemic on the tax basket, and plans in place to respond to the impact on the economy.

Below are excerpts.

What informed the decision by RRA to waiver taxes to some taxpayers?

Many taxpayers wrote to RRA requesting to be given a waiver on interest and penalties due to cash flow issues caused by COVID19.  We were also noticing many declarations being made on different taxes but no payment was being made.  

From your own assessment, what is the economic impact of such a decision? 

At the moment, each and every sector of the economy was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic albeit in varying proportions. Granting waivers was a deliberate measure of lessening the impact of COVID-19 on the economy by granting taxpayers an opportunity to recover and focus on stabilizing their businesses and remain afloat.

Were there some taxpayers whose applications were rejected? If yes, why? 

All the businesses that were given a waiver, it was due to hardships they were facing in payment however not all businesses were facing this challenge because some continued to work during the period of COVID-19 lockdown. Therefore, all those that were rejected had no hardship issues since they did not stop working. 

It is obvious COVID-19 has affected your initial tax projections …can you give us a picture of the effect and in numbers?

We ended last Financial Year with a gap of Rwf 74.2 billion. However, if we include the strong performance of the first semester (June-Dec 2019) where we had exceeded the target by Rwf 26billion, we can say COVID-19 impacted the tax collections by Rwf 100.2 billion.

What other tax burdens are you facing now and in the near future? If possible tell us how you intend to go about it. 

Many challenges we are facing rotate around cash flow issues in payment of taxes, some businesses have just opened and are operating at a low percentage. Others are still closed. We know others have tax arrears that they cannot afford to pay. We have also noticed some layoffs of staff in some businesses. RRA is also aware of the complete closure of operations by some businesses.

All these cases affect tax collection in the short run and in the long run, however, we have put in place measures with the support of government to overcome this. First, the waiver for businesses in hardship to be able to pay the principal tax and continue to operate. We are also expanding our tax base by recruiting businesses that were not in the tax net before. RRA has also begun providing other facilities such as installment payments to businesses to be able to pay their tax liabilities in a long period.

Policy-wise, what new changes is RRA making in regards to the effects of COVID-19, apart from waivers?

RRA in conjunction with the ministry has had a mixed range of policies aimed at mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on business in general. One such policy includes the extension of due dates for different taxes like income tax. Another significant policy is to allow businesses to pay their Instalment Quarterly Prepayment (IQPs) basing on current year operations instead of basing on previous years. Some sectors have also benefited from exemptions on paying PAYE for employees earning up to Rwf150,000 (Tourism, hotels, and private schools). Taxpayers were allowed to declare without certified financial statements for a period of three months. Administratively, we expanded the use of online services to limit the movements of our clients. We also suspended the requirement of 25% downward payment admissible for amicable settlements.

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German Firm Signs Deal With Rwanda, Senegal To Begin Vaccines Manufacturing Mid 2022



BioNTech SE announced on Tuesday plans to construct a manufacturing plant for mRNA-based vaccines in Africa in mid-2022.

This is the next step in BioNTech’s efforts to implement sustainable end-to-end vaccine supply solutions on the continent.

The decision is the result of a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Daniel M. Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech and Sierk Poetting, COO of BioNTech as well as Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre and Dr Amadou Alpha Sall, Directeur-General of Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Kigali, Rwanda.

The meeting occurred upon the invitation of the kENUP Foundation and took place as a side-event of the Second Ministerial Meeting of the African Union and the European Union and resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

This comes after the parties signed a Joint Communiqué at a previous meeting in Berlin on August 27, 2021.

“I would like to thank all participants of today’s meeting for the support and trust to establish the first mRNA manufacturing facility within the African Union. Together, we will work on developing a regional manufacturing network to support the access to vaccines manufactured in Africa, for Africa,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech.

“Our goal is to develop vaccines in the African Union and to establish sustainable vaccine production capabilities to jointly improve medical care in Africa. We have made great progress in the past few weeks, which will help us on our way to turn these plans into reality,” he said.

Sierk Poetting, COO of BioNTech added: “We aim to accelerate the building of a GMP-certified manufacturing facility and plan to begin the construction on site in mid-2022.”

The MoU underlines that time is a critical success factor in the development of sustainable vaccine production for the African Union.

“We have finalized the planning and initial assets for the new facility have already been ordered,” Poetting added.

The parties have agreed to jointly to start works immediately.

BioNTech has finalized the construction plans and ordered the assets, which will be delivered by mid-2022.

The new manufacturing facility could become the first node in a decentralized and robust African end-to-end manufacturing network enabling an annual manufacturing capacity of several hundreds of million mRNA vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to develop and implement a scalable construction network based on the expertise and learnings from the ramp-up of the Company’s production facility in Marburg.

To enable an expedient set-up of production capacities according to GMP standards, BioNTech will start with the construction and validation of a first production line enabling the manufacturing of drug product for about 50 million of e.g. COVID-19 vaccine doses per year, once fully operational.

The capacity will be increased sequentially by adding further manufacturing lines and sites to the manufacturing network on the continent, supporting the production of several hundreds of millions of mRNA vaccine doses.

BioNTech will initially staff, own and operate the facility to support the safe and rapid initiation of the production of mRNA-based vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to transfer manufacturing capacities and the know-how to local partners.

BioNTech, Rwanda Development Board and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal agreed to swiftly build-up the required human resources capacity and systems so that the partners can take over ownership and operational duties.

In parallel, the Republic of Rwanda and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar have committed themselves to scale-up fill and finish capacities to complete the local end-to-end manufacturing process.

In addition, BioNTech is in discussions about an expansion of the current partnership with Cape Town-based vaccine manufacturer Biovac, which is part of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing network.

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Africa’s Second Plant Breeding Conference Kicks Off In Rwanda



From 25th-29th October 2021, scientists, entrepreneurs, institutional leaders and students from Africa and beyond are meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and online for the second continental African Plant Breeders Association Conference (#APBAConf2021)  

Guided by the theme, “Accelerating Genetic Gains in Plant Breeding for Resilience and Transformative Food Systems and Economic Growth in Africa”, participants at the hybrid event are set to explore current research outputs and outcomes in plant-breeding and related disciplines. 

AGRA is partnering with the Government of Rwanda, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), host of the Secretariat of the APBA and USAID at the #APBAConf2021, a forum that seeks to shine the spotlight on plant breeding as a key component of fast-tracking the continent’s agricultural transformation.

Strategic partnerships are crucial in the fight against food and nutrition security in Africa, said Prof. Danquah, Founding Director of WACCI and President of APBA. 

“The #APBAConf2021 draws attention to the need for crop improvement and seed sector development in Africa to help us build resilience in the staple crops of Africa, and to increase productivity in farmers’ fields. AGRA is proud to have been part of training plant breeders who are now churning out locally adopted crop varieties. I encourage all of us to support these scientists and sustain the momentum to put high yielding as well as drought tolerant crops in the hands of farmers.   I am pleased to be part of this conference which brings together scientists from across the continent to help provide solutions that ultimately improve the lives of smallholder farmers,” Dr. Kalibata said. 

Since 2007, AGRA has supported 1,100 African scientists to obtain post-graduate degrees whilst developing solutions to address the challenges of smallholder farmers with respect to seeds, soils, applied agricultural economics and policy.

This is in line with the APBA platform which aims at driving an agenda for innovation in plant breeding on the continent to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and the aspirations of the African Union, “the Africa We Want” by 2063). 

The APBA conference was first held two years ago in Ghana, where resolutions were made to mobilize resources and build institutional capacities for the long-term strategic development of the agricultural sector in Africa through effective plant-breeding programs.  

The 2021 edition will track the progress towards the commitments made in Accra, in addition to presenting tangible solutions to other problems presenting in the in the plant breeding and seed industry as an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and other unforeseen difficulties like the locust invasion of East Africa.  

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Vivo Energy Launches Engen Service Station In Rusoro



When Vivo Energy Rwanda, the company that markets and distributes Engen-branded fuels and lubricants in Rwanda, acquired Energy Solution (ENES) and GEMECA petroleum assets in March this year, its executives promised to increase its network by 13 operational service stations and three new land banks within 12 months.

It also said that it would increase its retail network from 24 to 40 service station sites across the country.

As part of this growth agenda, Vivo Energy Rwanda launched a new service station located in Rusoro sector on Friday, October 22, 2021.

The service station is located in growing area connecting different potential zone dominated by commercial, residential and social activities.

It stands on the main road connecting Mulindi center to other mixed activities zones with fuel consumption opportunities from all kinds of vehicles starting from motorbike and light cars to heavy cars are expected.

Saibou Coulibaly, the Managing Director of Vivo Energy Rwanda, said that “we have been able to grow our footprint and serve a bigger customer base with quality product and services all over Rwanda”.

“Our focus has been and will always be to offer a unique and memorable experience to anyone who will interact with the Engen brand; we want to bring our customer promise “with us you are number one” to life,” he said.

He added that this is part of the broader strategy to bring more stations and more choice to customers with these newly added service stations.

The added station comes at a time when the firm is also running another campaign known as “Triple check campaign, the very first ever quality campaign in the petroleum industry.

The aim of this campaign, launched in May this year, is to ensure that every customer who visits any of the Engen service stations gets the right quality of fuel in their vehicle, the right quantity they have paid for, all this provided to them with the service level they deserve.

With the help of installed quality fuel testers, customers have the opportunity to see if they are getting the quality and quantity of fuel.

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