Rwanda, EAC business leaders set to deepen commercial ties with US


President Kagame hosts a roundtable of regional and national business leaders and US delegation led by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker at Village Urugwiro in Kigali yesterday. (Village Urugwiro)

Considerable economic success in Rwanda and the larger bloc of the East African Community (EAC) is attractive for American investors and the US government is focused on supporting stronger partnerships between US investors and members of the private sector in Rwanda and the rest of the EAC.

The message was delivered in Kigali, yesterday, by US Secretary for Commerce Penny Pritzker during a business roundtable at Village Urugwiro that brought together business leaders from the US business and East Africa.

Pritzker, who led a delegation of 13 members of the US President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa and African CEOs, spoke highly of the economic achievements in Rwanda and EAC.

“Rwanda and the East African Community have a lot to offer US investors. East Africa is the most integrated and fastest-growing regional economic community in Africa,” she said.

She hailed Rwanda’s efforts and success in facilitating businesses as well as the country’s stable economic growth since 2000 – at an average of 8 per cent – and called for stronger ties between the country’s traders and those from the US.

“We are focused on steps the US government can take to support the establishment of stronger and lasting commercial partnerships between the US and the African private sectors, especially regions and countries where there have been considerable economic success and Rwanda is a prime example of this. From a commercial perspective, Rwanda’s climb in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business is notable,” she said.

Under its Doing Business Report (DBR) for 2016, the bank ranks Rwanda 62nd in the ease of doing business and the country remains the second easiest place to do business in Africa and the best in East Africa.

The CEO’s business roundtable was organised under the theme, “The economic benefits of integration,” and intended to help the private sector articulate the economic benefits of regional integration.

The discussions held at the meeting focused on policies and regulations that need to change for integration to accelerate and the economic and commercial opportunities that would be gained by taking these steps, reads a statement from President Kagame’s office.

Kagame said he was glad that it was one of the commitments as a follow up to the US - Africa Summit that took place in the US in August 2014.

“It is encouraging to have business leaders in our region and national leaders to get together and work together and more so that this meeting has the background of a relationship defined about two years ago in the US when we had the US-Africa Summit and I am glad that this is one of the efforts to follow up on the commitments that were made to each other when the two sides met,” he said.

He said the goal of the roundtable was to strengthen the relationship between the US and the East African Community as well as the wider sub-Saharan region.

Rwanda upbeat about trade with US

The Minister for Trade and Industry, François Kanimba, hailed the existing dynamic trade relationship between Rwanda and the US and pledged the country’s support to broaden trade links with the US.

US investments in Rwanda have grown substantially, especially in the last four years, as a result of the signing of a bilateral investment treaty between both countries in December 2011, Kanimba said.

“The establishment of this legal framework has created confidence for US investors interested in the Rwandan domestic market, but also our access to the wider EAC regional market,” he said.

Between 2005 and May 2014, 34 US investments were registered in Rwanda with an approximate value of $300 million, creating more than 4.000 jobs.

Moreover, in 2015, US Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to Rwanda made up more than 20 per cent of total FDIs registered in Rwanda, reaching an amount of $220 million.

That was an increase of 21 per cent from 2014, with the investments going into setting up the University of Global Health, agro-processing factories and energy production projects.

Kanimba pledged Rwanda’s support for a Trade and Investment treaty to be negotiated between the US and the EAC.

The discussions held at yesterday’s meeting will be refined and presented at the 2016 US-Africa Business Forum, which is likely to take place in September in New York.

President Kagame later tweeted on the visit describing the discussion as insightful and adding: “Integration is work in progress. The real benefits for our people only serve to highlight how much more we can do and faster. Now governments and businesses together must implement these ideas.”