Taking an adaptive approach to developing first-of-a-kind industrial clusters to support Rwanda’s path to middle-income status

Trade and Logistics Clusters (TLCs) are a first-of-its-kind programme being implemented by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) in Rwanda and elsewhere in the region to support growth and job creation. TLCs are geographic nodes that offer opportunities for increased manufacturing production, enhanced trade, efficient logistics and transport systems and hence better jobs and incomes.

Triple Line has been working with TMEA to conduct a pre-feasibility and feasibility assessment for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Advanced Factory Units (AFUs) in Rwanda. 

Rwanda’s ambition is to become a middle-income country by 2035, driven by world-class urban and industrial infrastructure, a gradual shift from agriculture to manufacturing, and greater export orientation. Following the success of a first SEZ in Kigali, attracting more than US$300 million in investment and creating 60,000 jobs, a further nine industrial parks are planned across the country. One of these is Bugesera, a 330 hectare industrial park 54 kilometres from Kigali where construction of the base infrastructure has begun on the first 100 hectares of land.

Bringing relevant experience from Ethiopia and Asia, our team draws on a track record in designing urban and industrial infrastructure as well as implementing market systems development programmes

TMEA, a multi-donor funded development agency that promotes prosperity through trade, is working with the Government of Rwanda to develop the remaining 230 hectares in Bugesera; as well as to develop AFUs – plug-and-play factory units that can be sold or rented to large manufacturers – in the Kigali SEZ. A Triple Line team, bringing relevant experience from Ethiopia and Asia, is working with TMEA to design this cross-disciplinary programme, drawing on a track record in designing urban and industrial infrastructure as well as implementing market systems development programmes.

Phase 1 of the project comprised a feasibility study for the development of the AFUs in the Kigali SEZ, and a pre-feasibility assessment of five industrial parks prioritised by the Government of Rwanda to select one for further feasibility study and potential investment and development in partnership with TMEA. The study identified Bugesera as the most promising, and in Phase 2 the Triple Line team is providing support to unlock a US$100 million loan from EXIM Bank in India to finance the construction of base infrastructure works. This involves reviewing and modifying existing project documents (Detailed Project Report, drawings and Bills of Quantities). In parallel, we are carrying out the feasibility study and providing transaction advisory services in order to identify a developer-operator. Follow-on activities will include validating prioritised sectors based on investor interest, preparing sector zoning layouts, analysing connectivity options and conducting a preliminary market sounding to gauge the interest of potential investors.

Adaptive technical assistance will respond to an evolving market context to help Rwanda meet its industrial infrastructure targets

Beyond this, our team will continue to support TMEA on its Rwanda TLC through a more adaptive approach which acknowledges the evolving market context in Rwanda, and the challenge of meeting its industrial infrastructure targets. While the Kigali SEZ was publicly funded and is operated by a quasi-public entity, the remaining industrial parks have limited government funding options. Alternative financing options will need to be identified that help to attract private developer-operators. TMEA and Triple Line will therefore continue to support the Government of Rwanda with adaptive technical assistance, offering a menu of on-demand services that will include support for the implementation of the Bugesera development, development of further AFUs beyond Kigali, and the drafting of an industrial infrastructure development roadmap and action plan to mobilise financing from private developer-operators.

Credit: title photos by UNIDO

C&H Garment Factory in Rwanda | Kigali Special Economic Zone
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