Currently, apart from tragic human consequences, the world is facing an economic recession. Rwanda will not be spared of the devastating economic effects brought about by Coronavirus.
Since the virus was identified in Wuhan, China last year, experts predicted a slowdown in the global economy which will cost $1 trillion only in 2020.
Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions (MICE) is one of the leading sectors in the economy of Rwanda. From July 2018 to February 2019, Rwanda earned $52 million (Rwf 46 billion) from MICE.
Among the major meetings that have been postponed due to Coronavirus is the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) meeting which was scheduled in Kigali in May, 2020 but has been postponed between February 16th and 18th, 2021.
In an interview with Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), Soraya M. Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry said that the ministry advised business owners in the MICE industry to allow postponement until the Coronavirus is contained on a global scale and in Rwanda.
"Currently, we have requested the postponement of 5 meetings as the government of Rwanda looks for a solution to counter the spread of Coronavirus. We advised hotels and restaurants which were expected to host visitors to allow postponement with the promise that business will be back on track once the virus is contained."
Despite MICE cancellations, preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) are still underway. The final decision on whether to host CHOGM or not will be announced with regard to the actual state of the virus spread in April 2020.
Due to rightfully imposed bans and restrictions, the supply of goods and services will be impaired and factories around the world are likely to face losses. In Rwanda particularly, the spillover effects of the lockdowns are starting to be felt since most of the products which were imported from China remain docked at foreign ports.
Hakuziyaremye said "Given that 22% of our imports were from China, we are constantly consulting with business owners to find an alternative source as the virus is getting contained. For the time being, we will resort to importing from Turkey, Egypt to counter the scarcity of goods on the Rwandan market."
In the heat of the outbreak, many countries around the world have imposed import bans meaning Rwanda is restricted to export goods while the virus prevails.
"Rwanda as a commodity exporter will likely suffer from the bans and restrictions especially for perishables such as flowers and chilli. However, all that matters for now is protecting our citizens by preventing further spread of the virus."
Hakuziyaremye said that in the meantime, business owners which have been affected by COVID-19 outbreak are receiving support from the ministry mainly regarding tax and loan payments.