For decades the Netherlands has been among Rwanda’s top development partners in multiple areas, including water, food security, private sector development, judiciary and agriculture, among others. Frédérique de Man is the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda since July 2015. She spoke to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about her country’s decades’ long cooperation with Rwanda, the commercial exchanges of the two nations.
How can you describe your partnership with Rwanda for over the two decades?
When we started collaborating with Rwanda in 1994, we wanted to be part of the journey of the country’s reconstruction and in the beginning there was a lot of work that needed to be done urgently like humanitarian and infrastructural needs, and we are happy that we have participated in many ways along this journey. Where we find ourselves now is that we are entering, completely in new partnerships and we are moving from a relationship that is emphasised by aid which is now a relationship where we want to have more emphasis on commercial exchanges and investments. We have been together on the journey that Rwanda has been making from 1994 up to now.
Last year, a huge investment of tea by Uniliver, a British-Dutch multinational was launched and is constructing a factory in the southern part of Rwanda but for the Rwandan farmer to get their tea to the factory, they need a good road. So we are involved with World Bank and USAID in constructing good roads to help farmers get acess to the factory which in the long run is also good for the quality of the tea.
What have been your efforts in diversifying the mutual business interests and commercial exchanges for the citizens of the two nations?
Slowly we are getting it with the investment of Uniliver, with the tea investment, and last year there was also the launch of DSM’s Africa Improved Foods, a Dutch multinational at the Special economic zone which has been doing investment in nutritional foods. We are also very happy that there is a company in The Netherlands that now has a deal with a company in Rwanda, for importing (to Netherlands) horticultural products so compared to last year, a lot has happened.
The Netherlands is also credited with playing an important role in facilitating post-Genocide justice; what has been your contribution to an accessible and efficient justice sector?
After the two people were who extradited at the end of 2016, there have been no new extraditions but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything being done. The Dutch and Rwandan authorities are working very closely on the issue of people suspected of having committed crimes during the Genocide against the Tutsi.
In recent years, you made calls for Rwandans to utilise study opportunities in The Netherlands. Have the numbers of applicants since been raised?
We are pleased that after the numbers went down we were able to have 32 Rwandans that were awarded these scholarships and in November last year, we had a ceremony here bidding farewell to the students. Most of them got opportunities to study courses related to agriculture and law. The numbers have gone up and we are working harder to have them go even higher.