Though Rwanda is the largest exporter of textiles in the East African region to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the former’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in this sector should explore this business line for expansion and diversification, according to a joint study by the East African Business Council and German government’s development agency GIZ.

Titled ‘The Opportunities for trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, the study report has data showing the potential for trade in textile exports from Rwanda to the DR Congo. It also lists the most-sought after products which includes clothing accessories, blankets and travelling rugs, household linen and articles. Others are sacks and bags, for the packing of goods, of polyethylene or polypropylene strips or the like.

One of the DR Congo’s most sought after textiles products is plain woven fabrics of cotton containing more than 85 per cent cotton by weight and weighing between 100 to 200 grams.

“The size of this market has risen to $ 23.9 million, and is dominated by the Netherlands, India and Belgium. The market for sacks and bags for packing of goods of man-made materials, excluding polyethylene is worth exploring for SMEs in this line of business,” says the report.

The market for imported textiles into the DRC was worth $235 million in 2019, representing a 12 per cent decline from 2015 to 2019. Textiles made out of cotton come in third at $34 million.

Most of the textile imports are sourced from China (54.6 per cent in 2019) at $128.9 million. In the same period, the rest of the imports were from Belgium ($20 million), India ($13.1 million), South Africa ($12.9 million) and the Netherlands ($10.2 million).

As a bloc, the East Africa Community (EAC) supplied textiles worth $ 30.7 million in 2019, and most of it was from Rwanda (53.3 per cent or worth $16.3 million). Rwanda’s textile exports to the DRC has been steadily rising in the period 2014-2018, while that of Tanzania has been fluctuating a lot in the same period. As a bloc, textile exports to the DRC significantly increased in the period 2015-2017.

Kenya’s exports of textiles to the DRC has shrank from $7.8 million in 2015 to $3.9 million in 2019. Uganda’s exports of textiles to the DRC increased from $7.3 million in 2015 to 8.6 million in 2018. Tanzania’s exports of textiles to the DRC fell from $ 5.9 million in 2016 to $ 745,000 in 2018.