FILE PHOTO: Rwanda's President Kagame.
INTERNATIONAL – Rwanda's President Paul Kagame on Monday officially inaugurated a dry port Kigali Logistics Platform, Rwanda's largest inland cargo handling facility, in the capital city of Kigali, as the landlocked country bids to become a regional logistics hub.

The platform also hosts a 2,500-square meter bonded warehouse of Rwanda Digital Trading Hub of Alibaba Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) Yiwu Global Innovation Center.

China's e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, Zhejiang China Commodities City Group, and the port operator Dubai Ports World, target to build the bonded warehouse as a central warehouse for Chinese commodities in East Africa, and innovate the mode of import and export trade on this basis.

The port that costs $35 million spans over 130,000 square meters, including a 12,000-square meter container yard and a 19,600 square-meter warehousing facility.

It has an annual capacity of 640,000 tons of warehousing space. Kigali Logistics Platform, located in Masaka area, Kigali's suburbs, serves as a gateway to the heart of Africa, connecting Rwanda to neighbouring countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

The facility will also ease access to the ports of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

DP World, a United Arab Emirates firm, constructed the facility under a 25-year concession agreement with the government of Rwanda signed in 2016. It has been operational since September last year in test mode.

Since the commencement of its operations, Kigali Logistics Platform has reduced truck turnaround time from an average of 10 to 14 days to three days.

When operating at full capacity, it has the potential to save Rwandan businesses up to $50 million a year in logistics costs.

The dry port is very important for Rwanda in regional and international trade as it will ease trade not only in Rwanda but also in its neighboring markets, Rwanda's minister of trade Soraya Hakuziyaremye said at a launching ceremony of the facility.

The port will address Rwanda's barrier as a landlocked country to access regional and international markets, she said. With the launch of this facility, Rwanda is doing its part to connect with the larger market of more than 1.2 billion consumers in Africa and beyond, President Kagame said at the ceremony.

The Kigali Logistics Platform comes at a "pivotal" moment in Afrca's economic transformation, said Kagame, who challenged business people and investors to make full use of the facility.

Kagame said the future of trade and integration in Africa lies in the African Continental Free Trade Area but trade agreements and economic policies won't have much impact, without actual infrastructure, DP World and the government of Rwanda are exploring the expansion of Kigali Logistics Platform to increase efficiency and provide more logistics solutions.