Dubai World slashes local investments

• Blame fixed on global recession Dubai World, a major holding company owned by the United Arab Emirates, has scaled down its investments in Rwanda, preferring to concentrate on two projects out of a handful it had picked on.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem - Chairman of Dubai World.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem - Chairman of Dubai World.

• Blame fixed on global recession

Dubai World, a major holding company owned by the United Arab Emirates, has scaled down its investments in Rwanda, preferring to concentrate on two projects out of a handful it had picked on.

Almost two years ago, the Middle-East giant announced it was to invest up to $230 million (approx.Rwf130bn) mainly in the hospitality industry.

The company promised to invest into Akagera National Park, home to the ‘big five’ wildlife species and re-develop Akagera Game Lodge.

It was also meant to take on Gorilla Nest Lodge, on the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park and elevate a luxury tent camp offering a five star service in the same area.

Whereas the company confirmed in an email to The New Times, that it was still committed to its business ventures in Rwanda, the earlier timing it had given to kick start most of its projects had elapsed. 

“Construction on the developments will commence in late 2007 and we will open an office in Kigali to manage the existing trading operations, paving the way for increased tourist arrivals who seek quality service and high end experience, a statement that quoted Dubai World Chairman, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, said in 2007.

Clare Akamanzi, deputy CEO of RDB said government was involved in rounds of talks to “prioritize” areas of investment for Dubai World but cautioned that its investments “may not come in the expected time”

But to dispel fears, Akamanzi sounded optimistic saying the investments promised by the holding company will be realized “by all means.”

“Sure, like many other big investors, Dubai World has to some extent been affected by the global economic crisis which may delay their investments in Rwanda,” said Akamanzi deputy CEO in-charge of Business Operations and Services at RDB.

At the time of announcing its investments in Rwanda, Dubai World said it would also build a new upscale 150-room hotel in Kigali on the Kigali Golf Course. It also promised to re-develop the 18 hole golf course and the golf and country club, as well as building townhouses and villas.

“In partnership with the Rwanda Government, Dubai World will initiate a golf foundation, through which a percentage of golf course revenues will be allocated to the promotion of the game for local residents, especially the young, through a golf academy and other initiatives,” Dubai world announced in 2007.

In what was seen as a landmark investment deal that brought smiles to many Rwandans, Dubai World also announced it would develop an eco lodge adjacent to a tea plantation in the magnificent Nyungwe Forest National Park.

However, running into the second year now, Dubai World Africa Services confirmed to The New Times that it had only commenced work on two projects. 

“DWAS is undertaking the creation of new tourism infrastructure and accommodation in Rwanda, while also upgrading existing facilities to the benefit of the local economy. DWAS is currently concentrating on two major projects in Rwanda, which are already underway – Gorilla’s Nest and Nyungwe Eco Forest Lodge,” read the email.

The holding company added, “our aim is to provide accommodation more in line with international expectations, differentiating Gorilla’s New Lodge through superior additional services and facilities.”

The Nyungwe eco-forest lodge is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2009. However, unconfirmed reports making rounds in Kigali indicate that the company has already pulled out of the Akagera deal and that the $230 million investments promised could as well, have been slashed by more than half. 

Dubai World’s largest holding company manages and supervises a portfolio of businesses and projects for the Dubai government across 100 different cities in the world.

In 2006 it set up Dubai World Africa with a $1.5 billion capital fund to invest in different projects on the continent.

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