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Rwanda Trade Expo Promotes East African Development

About 300 exhibitors from more than 20 countries are putting their services and products on display this week in Kigali, Rwanda. Thomas Rippe reports for VOA from the Rwandan capital.

Exhibitors say Expo Rwanda is a great place to forge new international business contacts and promote their companies to local Rwandans.

The non-profit Private Sector Federation organizes the event. The group's Secretary General, Emmanuel Hategeka, says the main purpose is to promote Rwanda as a place to do business.

"When we are putting together the whole exhibition it is really to promote enterprise in Rwanda," said Emmanuel Hategeka. "It is to promote our neighbors. It is to give them an opportunity to showcase what they have to offer to the regional market, and also to the local market as well."

Out of more than 300 exhibitors, more than two thirds are from Rwanda. The majority of the rest are from nearby countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Others come from as far as Ghana, Egypt, and India. Local merchants are making the best of the exposure to international attention.

Robinah Uwera of OCIR Café says the expo has boosted regional and international coffee sales.

"But since the exhibition started so many companies have been coming," said Robinah Uwera. "And when they come they give us their business card. When we reach the place of work we contact them, or they contact us for lots of tons. Now we have many orders of tons of coffee that are supposed to go out."

Along with coffee, tea is one of Rwanda's major exports. At the Rwanda Tea Authority exhibit Josephine Mitali says this is a great chance to promote her product.

"You know in this exhibition there are so many people from all over the world," said Josephine Mitali. "There are people from East Africa, there are people from Asia. So we are using this opportunity to make it popular to them."

She says the tea is especially popular with Indians

"They like our tea," she said. "I think our tea is better than theirs."

Some of the Indians are here to shop. Others are here to sell.

Shaikh Hosain Alli is with India's National Small Industries Corporation. He is here to promote equipment for things such as banana processing.

"We are here to give technologies to small industries and very small people," said Shaikh Hosain Alli. "They can afford those technologies within a very limited cost, very limited resources. And process them and value add them and sell them in the local market."

Emmanuel Hategeka says the Expo is an important way to change the perception of Rwanda as a place of tragedy to a place of economic recovery and development.