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Special Report

Rwanda Should Strategize On Producing Avocados For Export

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Health conscious consumers in developed countries in Europe are struggling to find avocados yet Rwanda and other sub-Saharan countries offer excellent conditions for large scale production of this fruit.

Rwanda boasts of 141, 130 metric tons of avocados total production margin per year but most of this is composed of varieties unfit for export.

Kenya is the only country in this part of the world that has consistently developed its Avocado production and therefore enjoyed a seeming export monopoly- the country is ranked eight globally in avocado production.

According to Hosea Machuki, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) chief executive officer, the country mainly exports 3 varieties: Hass, Fuerte, and local Jumbo variety. More than 115,000 metric tons of avocado are produced in Kenya annually, where 70% are normally grown by small-scale farmers

For example, Kenya’s avocado exports jumped 15% to 68,000 tonnes over the 12 months to October, fetching the country Sh14 billion (U$12,820,5140). This has been attributed to adoption of higher international quality standards.

Meanwhile, Rwanda which joined the East African Community in July 2007 produces 82,000 metric tons of locally grown avocado varieties that are not export-grade. In 2012, the government of Rwanda embarked on an aggressive plan of distributing export-grade seedlings and educating public on the value of different avocado varieties.

Hass avocado is the most popular variety of avocado in the world. The Global Hass Avocado Market is projected to register a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR)  of 4.8% during the forecast period 2020-2025.

Rwandan Scientists in agriculture may require investing deeply in avocado development to come up with an exportable variety that can at least take fewer years to mature despite the growing demand for organic fruits.

However, when you purchase an avocado tree seedling, expect the first fruit three to four years after planting. If you are growing from a seed, it can take anywhere from five to 13 years before the tree is mature enough to set fruit.

During previous years, the performance of the avocado market grew 104% from 2000 to 2016, with a total production of 5.5 million tons in 2016, and a 69% increase in harvested areas. It is expected that European consumption will go from 650,000 tons in 2018 to more than 1,100,000 in 2020.

Health Benefits of Hass Avocado

Avocados are a nutrient-dense food that provide relatively many health benefits that include abundant nutrients (vitamins C, B5, B6, E, and K), potassium, folate, protein, and healthy fats. Seven of the nine grams of carbohydrates in a 100-gram serving are fiber, qualifying avocados as a low-carb food.

Avocado has become a favorite ingredient in many dishes (guacamole dip, salads, sandwiches) and is now on the menu of several restaurants across the U.S. The Avocado toast, a humble breakfast that was earlier eaten mainly in California and Australia, now is a trendy and instagrammable menu item in many restaurants around the world.

Why Investors Should Consider Rwanda For Large-scale Avocado Production

Rwanda has the ideal agro-climatic conditions for avocado cultivation

Rwanda provides a cheaper cost basis for avocado packaging / export than other countries in the EAC

Rwanda is well positioned to serve as an extension of the existing regional avocado export network

Export-oriented industries enjoy substantial Government support

Risks to investment are procurement and transport costs and the adoption of Hass variety seedlings by small holder farmers (SHFs)

Direct sales to 2–3 key EU wholesalers

Supported by sales to EU retailers and supermarkets, such as Tesco, Carrefour and Sainsbury’s

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Special Report

How Museveni Lost to Kagame in Race For Regional Dominance

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It is without doubt the tension between Rwanda and Uganda is the most complex and most intense political contest in the Great Lakes Region.

Naturally, for a region that is used to a long standing so called “bromance” between Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, the latest round of clash between the two that dramatically played out last year formed major news coverage for the past two years.

In a region that has romanticised Museveni’s activities and especially bellicose stance over the last 35 years, having emerged as the foremost power welding man, analysts tried to breakdown the likely outcomes of the latest round of political contest between the two.

The contest seemed to have cooled off when the two friends turned foes signed a cease fire in Luanda Angola in form of a MOU by August 2019, but the deal seemingly lacked desired effects as the New Year 2020 beckoned.

In March 2019, as tensions mounted, Kagame accused Museveni of trying unsuccessfully to topple him for the past 20 years, during Rwanda’s annual leadership retreat.

President Kagame was firm in his remarks.

He said that, “No one can bring me to my knees”.

Earlier on in April 2019, Kagame repeated his misgivings against Museveni.  He said, “Those who think we have not seen enough of a mess, and want to mess with us, whether from here or from outside, I want to say: We will mess up with them big time.”

Museveni in his usual chest thump, responded by claiming that Rwanda was bent on destabilising Uganda. “Those who want to destabilise our country do not know our capacity,” adding that “once we mobilise, you can’t survive.”

As a populist reaction, what emerged mostly from the newsrooms of both countries amounted to dooms day scenario for Rwanda.

Museveni who has for long postured himself as the region’s policeman and Godfather, and through a series of propaganda pieces in the media, gave an impression that he would vanquish Kagame, and consistently portraying him as his mentee.

In order to give currency to the perceived doomsday scenario against Rwanda, anti-Rwanda articles increased, even in the mainstream media.

This was happening alingside kidnapping, torturing and illegal imprisonment of innocent Rwandans in Uganda.

Museveni believed Rwanda would be brought to its knees with an assumption that Kagame would eventually beg for mercy.

Here is what Museveni didn’t anticipate. Kagame applied a well calculated response. He closed the border and advised Rwandans to stop traveling to Uganda.

Uganda traders lost business. Uganda had lost its 5th export market.

Uganda beleived that since Rwanda depended on Uganda, economically, and for a falsely perceived political patronage and by extension, thus its survival to make it through its economic ambitions in the future, were at stake.

However, as the New Year 2020 started and going through available economic statistics, despite a few minor setbacks for Rwanda, the contrary emerges.

The situation is that Uganda has emerged as the loser in its contest against Rwanda.

Kagame more specifically has beaten hands down Museveni.

Kagame is clearly a heavyweight player, a global scale.

Kagame’s 5 major forms of collateral damages

In any contest pitting two fighting giants, victory normally comes with its attendant costs.

This is something economists refer to as opportunity cost of war or in military terms referred to as collateral damage.

Economically, opportunity cost is what you forego in order to achieve victory.

While Kagame insisted that his stance against Museveni meant well for Rwandans and larger well-being of the region, there are minor setbacks  that  Rwanda suffered in the contest.

First set back is that trade between the two countries plummeted in the wake of common border closure in March 2019 between the two states.

Available statistics indicate that Uganda lost over $600 million of export revenues to Rwanda and making an almost zero equalizer since Rwanda exports a handful to Uganda.

Many basic commodities that Rwanda needed from Uganda such as cement and related construction materials that formed the key ingredients for supporting Rwanda’s reconstruction efforts as well as wide range of consumer goods including basic foodstuff could not easily reach Rwanda anymore.

Rwanda experienced the pain, but it was temporary. Goods are now secured from other markets and the supply is stable, but it was unbearable for some months.

Secondly, the restriction of movement of Rwandans to Uganda, exposed Uganda as a country hostile to the spirit of the East African Community integration, in terms of free movement of people, but the ordinary people suffered the experience.

The third set back, was the stalemate of “the coalition of the willing”, the segment of East African heads of state of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda coalescing around championing the revamping of the Northern Corridor, an important trade route for East Africa. It has now died a natural death as a result of the contest.

Uganda deliberately sabotaged the project. Obviously Rwanda was hurt more than Uganda and Kenya. Museveni has never said a word.

The multi-billion dollar initiative, cutting across several levers of the regional economy that was championed by the three presidents suffered a major blow.

Conservative estimates could put the loss for all the three countries at around US$3 billion.

A fourth set back was that, regrettably there were sensational stories of waves of Rwandan civilians arrested, detained  and tortured by Ugandan security operatives in the ensuing standoff.

Reports indicate that more than 1,000 Rwandans were deported from Uganda last year and more than 150 are still in detention in Uganda as at start of 2020. And dozens of innocent Rwandans have suffered gruesome treatment as well, including some people losing their lives.

The fifth set back was that reports started coming out that Uganda’s army was deploying its forces, including detachments of its specialised units along common border with Rwanda.

War was coming to a weaker Rwanda, from the stronger Uganda; they predicted.

Some said that Rwanda’s army was at this particular time around going to bear untold suffering at hands of the UPDF. This dooms day prediction was in reference to the previous open wars that both armies fought in Kisangani at the height of the second Congo wars in 2000.

It is still fresh in the minds of many how the RDF, then known as the RPA, routed UPDF from Kisangani. It has not escaped observers of the Kagame-Museveni bromance that the victory of Rwandan army against Ugandan army in Kisangani, is something that forms bitterness within UPDF top brass.

However, what the dooms day theorists failed to understand was that this was a different kind of contest. It was not going to degenerate into an open frontal military attack as was being peddled.

Kagame was placed in a real painful provocation. Museveni pressed harder. He invited Rwanda’s enemies into Uganda and facilitated them, materially, and morally. They infiltrated Rwanda and killed innocent Rwandans. Damages were suffered. The past two years were a mess in security circles. Resources were deployed to protected the country’s sovereignty and ensure security.

Kagame ordered no bullet be fired whatsoever, but it was such an ugly provocation by all standards. And Uganda remains safe home to the most hostile group of Rwanda’s enemies

Kagame’s major economic victories

A major victory President Kagame scored against President Museveni is that, Rwanda has emerged stronger economically from the standoff.

There were fears that Rwanda’s economy was bound to suffer, especially from the border closure. Contrary to these fears, statistics indicate that Rwanda is stronger than ever.

President Kagame said in his new year address that Rwanda prospered in the economic front.

“We are beginning the year 2020 after a successful 2019.Our country remained safe as a result of our efforts”.

The Africa Development Bank in its 2019 outlook on Rwanda, projected robust growth prospects even as the standoff with Uganda heightened.

Rwanda’s economy is projected to grow at 7.8% in 2019 and 8.0% in 2020, supported by export growth resulting from the “Made in Rwanda” policy, continued public investments such as the Bugesera International airport, and the country’s strong record of implementing reforms to achieve its long-term development goals.

The bank said that inflation is projected to edge up to about 4.0% in both 2019 and 2020, which is lowest in the region that is generally experiencing major economic challenges.

In addition, the bank says that fiscal deficit was projected to reach 4.4% of GDP in 2019 but is set to decline to 3.6% in 2020, reflecting prudent borrowing and increased domestic resource mobilisation.

This is in stark contrast to Rwanda’s neighbours where fiscal deficit is reaching unprecedented levels.

The bank says that, “Rwanda’s economy has enjoyed a good governance buildup that has allowed for great strides toward deeply entrenched and respected good governance principles and toward structural transformation facilitated by broad-based growth”.

Made in Rwanda initiative in high gear

The second major victory of President Kagame’s stand off against Uganda is the made in Rwanda initiative. The plummeting of imports from Uganda for even basic commodities has turned out to be blessing rather than a curse for Rwanda.

When Rwanda preferred to seek local production of such basic commodities that would ordinarily be imported from Uganda such as food, consumer goods or construction materials needed for Rwanda’s boom reconstruction, there were murmurs to effect that such home grown efforts were at best futile for Rwanda.

However, these efforts have served as perfect import substitution mechanism for Rwanda. The move is gradually forming the bed rock for a home-grown development of the nascent manufacturing sector.

A comfortable chunk of the US$180 million Rwanda would ordinarily spend annually in buying Ugandan products is being produced locally.

Another chunk of goods that Rwanda cannot produce is being sourced from neighbouring Tanzania. This move served to deal a huge blow to Ugandan businesses that have been tapping into Rwandan market for the last several years.

The major lesson that the stringent move championed by Kagame has taught Rwandans that after all they can live comfortably without Uganda.

Tanzanian Cement Twiga brand being sold at a shop in Rwanda alongside Cimerwa locally produced in Rwanda.

US$3.8 billion worth of cold-shouldering deals

One of the biggest blows that Uganda suffered in its standoff with Rwanda was the emergence of Tanzania as Rwanda’s new major trading partner.

Rwanda and Tanzania new found romance blossomed when in mid-year 2019 Rwanda signed the standard gauge railway (SGR) deal dubbed, sub-Saharan Africa’s first 570 Km bullet line with Tanzania worth US$2.5 billion.

The Rwanda- Tanzania SGR deal is part of Tanzania 1,475 Km SGR project meant to run from Dar es Salaam to shores of Lake Victoria.

Reports indicate that Tanzanian SGR deal is part of US$7.5 billion worth of projects Tanzania seeks to implement in next 5 years.

The deal effectively dealt a major blow to earlier mooted northern corridor’s 3,000 Km SGR project, linking Rwanda to Uganda, especially the stretch from Kampala to Kigali.

In order to provide proof of how Rwanda gave Uganda a cold shoulder in the SGR projects, plans are now under way to extend the Rwandan SGR component to Rubavu from Kigali.

The Rwandan SGR extension sucks in DRC’s President Felix Tshishekedi, who interestingly has warmed up to another round of new found friendship with Kagame, something that effectively isolates Museveni.

Rwanda added insult to injury on Uganda by December 2019 when it signed a US$1.3 billion deal on Bugesera Airport with Qatar that caps Kagame’s final victory against Museveni in the year 2019.

The Qatar-Rwanda deal is instrumental in the Kagame-Museveni duel in a number of ways.

It seals Kigali’s ambitions to overtake Entebbe as a regional aviation hub.

Secondly, in terms of the battle for the regional skies, seen as strategic to Rwanda’s long term competitiveness, Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir steals the thunder from all the regional carriers including Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, hitherto the two dominant carriers in the region and silences without a doubt Uganda’s wobbling start up airline, Ugandan Airlines.

And the game looks like it has just began.

Museveni, after sending his Special Envoy to deliver an undisclosed message to Kagame at the end of last year, he said that he was going to ensure the tension between the two countries is resolved.

Kagame said it was a good gesture, but not enough an act.

The ball is still in the hands of Museveni to take further steps. One, come clean and accept the damage he has caused and clean it up. Two, get rid of the enemies of Rwanda in his house. Three, render justice to the victims of his misdeeds.

Then, a conversation on how to mend the broken ties would be considered. Until then, Rwanda owes Uganda nothing, but a responsibility for it’s uncalled for agression.

As for Kagame, he continues to play in the big league as a heavyweight, and ignoring petty squabbles that undermine the country’s participation in global engagements to secure its grand ambitions.

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Special Report

Museveni “Illegally Promoted” New Spy Chief From Major To Colonel in 2013

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Uganda’s new head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) is an officer of concern that the region will carefully want to scrutinize since he has been entrusted with a controversial military agency featuring in incubating trouble between Uganda and the southern neighbour.

Taarifa Investigative Desk has reliably learned that Uganda’s new Spy Chief Maj Gen James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally promoted from Major to Colonel. This could be a trigger for minders to reset their lens on this new officer who has had stints in the Airforce, Special Forces Command and now the dreaded CMI.

Gen Birungi came into the world in 1973 at Ngoma, current day Nakaseke District. Birungi attended Ibanda Secondary School for O level and Nyakasura School for Advanced level. He later joined Makerere Business School Nakawa, MUBS, where he pursued a degree in Business Administration.

In 1996, James Birungi, a very shy but ambitious young man, was among a group of 11 recruits that joined the Uganda army and underwent a one year basic military training course at Kasenyi in Entebbe.

Birungi was later sent to India for a cadet officers course where he spent a year and graduated as a Second Lieutenant.

On return from India, Birungi’s first deployment was under armoured Brigade, a specialized unit of the UPDF Land Forces with its Headquarters at Kasijjagirwa garrison in Masaka District.

He also undertook different tank courses and was deployed in Kitgum District in 2002. Birungi was commanding tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to escort supplies for soldiers in the Forward Operating Bases.

Birungi was later transferred to Karamoja to fight cattle rustling. From Karamoja, Gen Birungi was sent to Karama at the rank of Major as the Commandant of the training school.

He later joined Presidential Guard Brigade, now SFC in 2008, after attending Junior Staff courses at Gaddafi Barracks (Kimaka), Jinja.

In 2013 Birungi was promoted to Colonel and appointed acting Chief of Staff of the Air Force until he was taken back to SFC as the commander.

Birungi’s promotion from rank of Major to Colonel faulted the law and procedures and this propelled protest from members of the Ugandan parliament.

Opposition MPs led by Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda petitioned the East African Court of Justice, accusing President Yoweri Museveni of faulting procedures while promoting and appointing officers. Birungi’s ranks were not stripped as intended by the MPs and remained a senior officer of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

Those who Know Birungi

“He is a free man, mature enough, jolly and God fearing officer,” says Godfrey Ssempijja a resident in Bugonga, Entebbe.

“He is trustworthy but decisive, determined and principled cadre soldier, a friend of the young people and a son to the revolution,” Ibrahim Kitatta says.

Left : Maj Gen James Birungi has been appointed Chief of Military Intelligence

Birungi’s views

While speaking at the graduation party of his colleague, Birungi made some tantalizing remarks that most people just go to school to study, acquire degrees and other academic qualifications but never put into practice the skills they obtain.

“Even if you study to the level of a professor and you don’t implement the skills acquired, your education is meaningless. Some people just go to school just to acquire a degree but they cannot explain what they will do after acquiring it.”

He gave an example of those who have degrees in business management yet they cannot even start a small business.

However, Birungi forgot that he holds a degree in Business Administration and instead of pursuing a career in business he is now in the military. This view will mostly help in understanding how Birungi applies reverse phycology in management of information gathering, processing and eventual application in decision making.

Maj. Gen. James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally Promoted from Major To Colonel.

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Special Report

When Rwanda Was Accused Of Stealing Burundi Drums

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Before colonial  interference and eventual drawing of imagined boundaries, Rwanda and Burundi were once one solid nation known as Ruanda-Urundi later Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial territory, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.

The People of Burundi and Rwanda speak a simillar language and practice the same culture and various norms.

Now two independent countries with extremely diverse visions, their recent past relationship  has not been one to boast about. Their militaries repeatedly clash, governments slam doors on each other and trade unending accusations but also surprisingly return to roundtable and mend fences without mediation.

In 2019, Burundi Accused Rwanda Of Stealing Drums Culture And Doing It So Badly.

It all started in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda from brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime as he was seeking a forced third term in office contrary to constitutional provision leading to a failed coup.

Among those that fled Burundi, included a group of Drummers organised under Himbaza group. In 2019, this group applied to take part in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya.

The group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they were Burundian refugees who had been living in Rwanda since 2015.

Himbaza group Performing at the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi

Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s former President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.

“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.

However, “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them to the next round.

Organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.

“Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right to residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The contestants are legal residents of Rwanda and therefore are legitimate contestants on the show,” said organisers.

Demonstrations against the Government of Rwanda in the Burundian capital were the order of the day, hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses were targeted but Rwanda refused to be provoked.

In 2014 UNESCO registered the ritual dance of the royal drum a Burundian tradition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity  with hope to preserve and share with the world.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye (right) drumming sacred drums

Rwanda and Burundi currently maintain a closed border and have clashed several times since 2015 but the two sides have been involved in shuttle diplomacy and have announced that anytime the border may reopen.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is currently enjoying his annual leave, chose to traverse the country and visit various touristic destinations. He has been seen with his family enjoying boat ride, walking through a forest and most recently he visited Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora) in Gitega province.

He garbbed drum sticks cheerfully spotting the red, white and green national colors of the famous Burundian drummers. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to harmoniously sketch a few dance steps. He even sang some patriotic songs.

“You who have devoted your life to the drums, I did not barter the zither for the modest sum of 80 francs, I did not throw away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not betray my country for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift in well-watered parties”.

And the guardians of the sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora loudly proclaim their approval by responding loudly with their cry: “Eeeeh! ”

The sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora: “It houses the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, 119 years, and served as a place of refuge for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was organized.”

Ndayishimiye’s visit at the site hosting sacred drums of Gishora may have been a signal to end the Drum politics that had pitted the two countries against each other in 2019 and could pave way for opening a new chapter with Rwanda once accused of stealing these drums.

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