Business Times’ George Kagame talks to Rwanda Investment and Export Promotions Agency (Riepa) director general Francis Gatare.
BT: What are Riepa’s prospects for 2008?
Gatare: In 2008 we aim to attract investments that have a huge impact on the economy of Rwanda. We are looking for them and facilitating those already attracted in the country. We are also encouraging Rwandans to reinvest so that their businesses expand.
BT: At Frw176.5 billion, the contribution of the service sector to GDP figures cannot be over emphasised. Which sub-sectors brought in a lot of revenue?
Gatare: The continued expansion of the service sector is a result of the growth in other sectors of the economy, but the service industry is taking a larger share of GDP. Tourism has grown by 10 per cent for the past 10 years; banking has also grown by double digit in the same period. Hotel and catering businesses have equally grown. Most of the public transport vehicles are now privately owned.
BT: But if Rwandans are to escape from the poverty trap, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) need to be helped. Isn’t Riepa forgeting the key sector by targeting big investors?
Gatare: The growth in the service sector has ensured that there’s a lot of money that spills over in restaurants, discos, cafes and various clubs involved in the social service sector.
Lawyers and economists are setting up consultant firms.
Wedding planning firms are allover town instead of traditional unions which were the case, a few-years-ago.
BT: What is happening to the agricultural sector, employing about 80 percent of the people, but brought in only Frw57 billion in investments?.
Gatare: The agricultural sector in Rwanda is large and requires more investments. Flower, vegetables and fruits farmers have to be mobilised. Also more capital is needed to be pumped into the diary farming, especially since the government introduced the ‘one cow per family project. We are promoting the processing of milk products. More milk collection centres have been built.
We are also looking for investors to process soya beans into cooking oil. We intend to link agriculture with energy, exports and tourism, so that our investments have some value added to get maximum export revenues.
BT: There is a boom in the construction industry. Why is it happening now?
Gatare: The construction and real estate industry development has expanded. The property value has been increasing rapidly. Many investors are now keeping their wealth into buildings. Residential and commercial buildings are increasing because people are buying homes. Foreigners also buy residential and commercial buildings in Rwanda, partly because of the incentives. Therefore the boom in the construction industry is to continue.
BT: A developed education sector is the benchmark of a vibrant service sector. How is Riepa contributing to the growth of the education sector?
Gatare: The education sector is crucial and is registering strong investments. But we still face challenges in the tertiary and technical institutions. Riepa has helped ULK (Kigali Independent University) and (UNILAK) Universite Laique Adventiste de Kigali expand their infrastructure.
The tourism sector has also benefited from the recently opened tourism training institutes in the country.
BT: Towards the end of the year several leading East African musicians including Nameless from Kenya, Bobi Wine, Chameleone, Juliana and Ragga Dee from Uganda performed in Kigali. What are the latest trends in the entertainment sector in Rwanda?
Gatare: The entertainment and leisure industry is crucial. Unfortunately we are not seeing enough people from Rwanda exploit the sector. Rwandans are very talented but they are not making these talents translate into commercial sense. We need investors in the film and cinema industry as well. Entertainment plays a key role because people need to burn off steam.
BT: There are concerns that the service sector in Rwanda is still below international standards. For example services in the hotel and catering are poor. What are you doing to transform this crucial industry?
Gatare: For this, I will give the example of a popular coffee shop in Kigali—Bourbon Coffee has been successful not because of good coffee and food, but they also have a good atmosphere for people to relax and cool off.
BT: There are concerns that the city lacks small or medium scale housing projects for low income earners. Are you doing anything to attract invests in this crucial area?
Gatare: The need for housing investment in the small and medium scale income is being addressed. Prime property developers in the private sector have approached us to invest in this sector.