“This visit will expand our bilateral relations even further” - Ambassador Miyashita H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, made an official visit to Japan on January 7-10, 2019, and held a summit meeting with H.E. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, on January 8, 2019. The two leaders confirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties. The New Times had a one-on-one with H. E. Takayuki Miyashita, Ambassador of Japan to Rwanda, on the commitments made by the two countries Rwanda - Japan Summit Meeting President Kagame and Prime Minister Abe held a summit meeting on January 8, and issued the Rwanda-Japan Joint Statement (https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000436228.pdf). The overview of the summit meeting is presented below. Inhis opening remarks, Prime Minister Abe stated that this was their third summit meeting and that he would like to deepen the partnership between the two countries that share fundamental values and have exchanged experiences in a wide range of fields in the public and private sectors. Prime Minister Abe expressed his gratitude for Rwanda’s proactive contribution to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process and expressed his hope for President Kagame’s attendance at TICAD 7, which will be held in Yokohama City in August this year, and further collaboration for TICAD 7. In response, President Kagame expressed his gratitude for Japan’s invitation and his intention to make this visit to Japan an opportunity to strengthen cooperation with Japan both in bilateral and international arenas, and to further enhance the relationship between the two countries. President Kagame also affirmed his attendance at TICAD 7 and Rwanda’s contribution to the success of TICAD 7. Bilateral relations Support for the sustainable development of Rwanda Prime Minister Abe highly praised President Kagame’s initiatives in areas such as economic development, national reconciliation, and combatting corruption. In addition, Prime Minister Abe expected that the implementation of the grant aid project signed that day would improve the water supply situation in Kigali City, and stated that Japan would continue to support the economic growth of Rwanda through public-private partnership. In response, President Kagame expressed his gratitude for Japanese assistance in the fields of agriculture, ICT, infrastructure, human resource development including the ABE initiative, peace building including PKO, and contribution to Africa’s development through the TICAD process. Cooperation in the economic field Prime Minister Abe welcomed the increase in the number of Japanese companies in Rwanda from 3 four years ago to 24, thanks to President Kagame’s initiatives for improving the investment and communication environments as well as human resources development. Mentioning the Public and Private Sector Joint Mission for Promoting Trade and Investment in Africa, which was dispatched in July last year, and the JETRO Seminar, held on January 9, Prime Minister Abe expressed his hope for developing concrete business projects. Regional affairs and strengthening cooperation in international fora The two leaders exchanged their views on global issues such as United Nations Security Council reform as well as regional affairs, including North Korea. Foreign Minister Sezibera and Ambassador Miyashita sign an agreement on the Project for Strengthening Nzobe-Ntora Water Transmission Pipeline Interview to the Ambassador of Japan The New Times: Japan and Rwanda enjoy a healthy and robust bilateral relationship. The two countries share a rich and intertwined history. Recently, the President of Rwanda made an official working visit to Japan. What can you say about the visit and how does it reflect on bilateral cooperation? Ambassador Miyashita: Japan-Rwanda relations have been growing rapidly in recent years, after half a century of steady development since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1962. Economic relations have been strengthened as more Japanese companies are investing in Rwanda. There were only three Japanese companies in Rwanda four years ago, but today the number has gone up to as many as 24. It is against this background that H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame visited Japan on January 7-10, as the first foreign country for him to visit in 2019. It was President Kagame’s fourth visit to Japan as the President, after his official visit in 2006 and attendance at the TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) in 2008 and 2013. During their stay in Tokyo, President Kagame and the First Lady were first received in audience by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. President Kagame then had a summit meeting with H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, and attended a business seminar with more than 200 Japanese businessmen who are interested in doing business in Rwanda. In addition, President Kagame had productive meetings with the President of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), the Chairman of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) and CEOs of Japan’s major companies. I am confident that this visit will expand and deepen our bilateral relations even further. The New Times:What actions is your government taking to increase cultural exchange between Japan and Rwanda? Ambassador Miyashita: Since my arrival in Rwanda two and a half years ago, I have been working on three priority areas: (1) to strengthen the political dialogue between the two countries, (2) encourage Japanese companies to invest in Rwanda and, (3) promote the Japanese culture in Rwanda. The political dialogue reached its climax when President Kagame visited Japan, while in the business area, there are 24 Japanese companies operating in Rwanda. To answer your question on cultural exchange, the Embassy holds an annual Karate Ambassador’s Cup competition. The upcoming fourth competition is scheduled on February 24, 2019. President Kagame and Prime Minister Abe held a summit meeting The New Times:Being a journalist here has made me see that we need more educational exchange between our countries. Is there any hope of scholarships coming from the current administration, and if so, can we someday look forward to a lot of scholarships for exchanges with Japan? Ambassador Miyashita: Studying in Japan is a great opportunityfor Rwandan students to make good use of Japanese advanced knowledge and technology for the development of Rwanda. The Government of Japan has been providing an ongoing program called African Business Education Initiative for the youth (ABE Initiative), which gives scholarships for a 2-year Master’s course at a Japanese university and a half- year internship opportunity at a Japanese company. So far, forty-one Rwandan students have participated in the program. Many of them returned to Rwanda, started their own business here and in some cases helped Japanese companies to invest in Rwanda. They are truly contributing to the development of the Rwandan economy today. The New Times:Aside from these official programs, are there any other agreements and partnerships between Rwanda and Japan? Ambassador Miyashita: One of the remarkable partnerships is the economic exchange between the Japanese city of Kobe and Kigali. The two cities have been actively exchanging their business missions focusing on the ICT sector, since mayors signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016. Another example is that Hachimantai City in Northern Japan is going to host the Rwandan national team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. This partnership became possible as a result of a Japanese business arrangement to grow gentian flowers from Hachimantai in Rwanda to export to Europe. The New Times:If it is possible, could you explain to me more about what your country is doing to boost sports in Rwanda? Ambassador Miyashita: The Embassy of Japan is working on promoting the Japanese martial art of karate in Rwanda. Last September, the Embassy donated 400 tatami mats and other karate equipment to the Rwanda Karate Federation. I look forward to watching the Rwandan karatekas do great in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. President Kagame and First Lady Jannette Kagame pay a courtesy call to Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan The New Times:Can you please tell us about the Japan-Rwanda relationship on trade and investment? Ambassador Miyashita: Last July, the Government of Japan dispatched a large business delegation of 57 people to Rwanda to expand trade and investment between the two countries. They paid a courtesy call on President Kagame and had a frank exchange of views over 30 minutes. They were impressed by the interaction with President Kagame, and promised me to come back to Rwanda. In fact, they are coming back to follow up on the mission. This month over 200 representatives of Japanese companies attended the business seminar in Tokyo on the occasion of President Kagame’s visit to Japan, as well as the networking event with 42 representatives from the Rwandan private sector. I have no doubt that trade and investment between the two countries will expand dramatically in the near future.