KIGALI - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MINAFFET) will focus on improving business relations with European countries while minimising the country’s dependency on their aid, Foreign Minister, Rosemary Museminali revealed yesterday.
She said that her ministry plans to increase European attention on the country’s investment and business opportunities and to develop ‘people to people’ relations through individual European dealers with investments in Rwanda, citizens in the Diaspora, and Rwandan researchers to increase remittances in the country instead of begging.
“Relations between Europe and Rwanda have been largely based on aid and we wonder if such a relation based on support should continue…we need to build stronger business relations,” she said in an interview with The New Times yesterday.
In a retreat she held with the ministry’s staff to review last year’s achievements and set targets for the new year, the Directorate in charge of Foreign Cooperation committed itself to strengthen the country’s image with a focus on ‘European and African countries with vast investment and business opportunities.’
Museminali added that Asian countries are also targeted while asserting that they need to be reached and fed with information.
“They need to understand our investment climate,” she said.
A statement from the ministry’s Communication Unit related to the retreat said that the General Directorate in charge of Rwandans in the Diaspora, ‘vowed to continue luring Rwandans to bring their skills, knowledge and finance in form of remittances into Rwanda’.
Two European countries, Netherlands and Sweden, recently suspended their aid to Rwanda totalling Euro 14 millions (Approx Rwf 9,273 billions) over allegations that the country was working closely with a rebel group in the DR Congo.
Subsequently, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, James Musoni, assured members of parliament that the decision would not affect Rwanda given that the State had Rwf 290 billion in its reserves and he instead called on for ways to end reliance on aid.
“The main issue that we should look at is laying strategies of living without or with minimal foreign dependence,” Musoni told MPs last week.
The European Commission to which both the Dutch and the Swedes are among the major contributors, is one of Rwanda’s major donors.
While Musoni emphasized that the government has no fear in the withdrawal of financial aid by some European countries last week, Museminali even doubted its sustainability yesterday as she explained her ministry’s new plans.
“We need things that are more sustainable than aid,” she said.
The two officials’ positions fall in the same line as President Paul Kagame’s New Year message in which he urged Rwandans to focus on making their country self-reliant and to utilise the resources at their disposal to push the country forward.