The Embassy of The Netherlands has over the years supported the Rwandan government initiatives in the areas of integrated water resource management, food security and nutrition, agriculture and horticulture and a decade’s long involvement in the justice sector.
Recently however, the embassy announced its intentions to complete its bilateral development programme by the year 2022.
Sharon Kantengwa caught up with the Netherlands ambassador in Rwanda, Frédérique de Man who shared their recent developments in the bilateral relations between the countries.
You are soon phasing out your bilateral development programme. Is this because of the trust you have that the Rwandan government can sustainably implement these projects?
We think that Rwanda is certainly able to do most of the work itself. We are systematically going to phase out over a period of three and a half years.
At the moment we are still active in three areas; the justice sector, food security and nutrition (which includes agriculture and horticulture) and integrated water resources management.
Integrated water resources management is a good example of how things have evolved in our bilateral development relationship. Over the past five years we had a programme that was being implemented by a consultant.
We have now come to a stage where the responsibility on the necessary further steps will be in the hands of the Rwanda Forestry and Water Authority which by the way is expected to turn into the Water Resources Management Board.
Although an international organization IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature will be involved in the new programme that will be focused on landscape restoration, it will be much more the responsibility of Rwanda itself.
What we will work on the coming three years is to come up with sustainable and replicable models, like for example in the Sebeya catchment.
The other example is in food security and nutrition. Our flagship project is Horti-invest which deals with the whole value chain of several horticultural crops. What we really would like to see is much closer collaboration between Rwandan small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and Dutch SMEs.
I am convinced that the private sector can achieve results itself. Where the public sector is needed, we will collaborate. For the time being we are still involved in feeder roads (with the World Bank and USAID), local development with LODA and the fight against stunting with UNICEF.
For the justice sector, it will be a little bit different. Apart from collaboration with the Rwandan justice institutions, we are working with civil society. Civil society usually depends heavily on external funding, so here I hope that others can take over.
But what I hope that we can do is that we can give a push for the quality of the work of civil society. And not only as a service provider but also for evidence-based lobbying and advocacy. I think that the public sector and civil society complement each other very well in the Justice sector.
Overall we at the embassy feel a sense of urgency right now. We want to leave things in the best possible way. This is already part of a longer term approach where we had started to move from aid to trade which is very much in line with the thinking of the Rwandan government
What other new areas of cooperation are currently in the pipeline?
We are working on several public-private partnerships that are eligible for funding coming from The Hague out of funds on top of our bilateral programme that are specifically focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
There are several other funds available in The Hague that we would like to use here in Rwanda, for example in energy. We are also looking at other sectors and partnerships. We are at the moment discussing with the Ministry of Infrastructure whether we can be participating in the transport plans for Lake Kivu.
What can you say of your efforts in diversifying the mutual business interests and commercial exchanges for the citizens of the two nations?
There are some very important Dutch investments in Rwanda. Like Bralirwa/Heineken and Africa Improved Foods/DSM as well as Unilever (which is an Anglo-Dutch multinational) in the tea sector.
We have been working with Bralirwa and AIF in improving the maize supply and we are looking now how we can set up public-private partnerships in the maize and potato value chains.
We are also working very hard to attract more companies from the Netherlands. In this respect I think that further integration of the countries that belong to the East African Community is of the utmost importance for Rwanda.
It seems that even the DRC might be interested to join and that would be an extremely interesting development because it will create a bigger market and it will stimulate more investments from abroad.
In your recent speech, you mentioned about your assistance in setting up a Rwanda Innovative Finance Facility, RIFFWA. Why do you have interest in this area?
We know that there are still huge investments in the water sector needed and if the Government of Rwanda would take these up on its own it would cost billions.
There are other ways of making things happen in the water sector in its broadest sense and here we are following what the Netherlands also has been involved in setting up in Kenya.
A facility that will assist to formulate bankable projects that could be then implemented in all kinds of public private partnerships and finance arrangements.
Here in Rwanda we are at the beginning. I just signed the approval for a new mission that will come here and investigate further. It is an advantage that this set up has been used in Kenya, they are a bit ahead so we can learn from their experiences and their mistakes.
If we, in the end, together with Rwandan authorities decide that RIFFWA is a good idea, I think we can have enormous leverage and play a very important role in meeting the infrastructural demands in the Rwandan water sector.