Close to a decade now, Rwanda has registered a steady increase in investments that are contributing to its economic growth. From 1999 till 2007, Rwanda’s investments were valued at RWf986.9 billion for both local and foreign investors.
Foreign investments were worth Rwf520.3 billion while local investments were Rwf466.7 billion in the same period.
Last year, investments were valued at Rwf278 billion across all sectors and created 4,141 jobs from 123 projects. The service sector registered the highest turnover with 75 percent of investments while mining the lowest with 4 percent.
This is according to statistics availed by Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (Riepa), part of the eight institutions that make-up the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The RDB was created to facilitate speedy service delivery, especially within the services sector. The increase was attributed to the country’s initiation of a comprehensive set of reforms geared towards marketing Rwanda as a better and a more viable investment destination regionally.
Some of the reforms included establishment of a business registration agency, land registry and commercial courts. Earlier reforms centered on the creation of a one stop centre for promoting investments which led to the creation of RIEPA.
The agency advocated to further reforms like the reduction of customs approval, which was drastically reduced from 30 to 10 days, while visa processing duration was reduced from 7 days to a mere 30 minutes.
With the need to realise a further increase in investments that would fetch in additional revenues which would go towards funding the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), the investment promotion agency embarked on an aggressive marketing program by highlighting the country’s unique investment potential.
A key component of this marketing was the hosting of the annual investment and other related conferences. Some of the prime conferences hosted included the first ever East African Investment Conference (EAIC), which attracted over 900 investors from within, the region and from further afield.
Participants included senior business executives and investors from around the world. The conference was attended by the four regional heads of state of Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.
Apart from showcasing investment opportunities, the conference was also aimed at promoting and strengthening the private sector development in Rwanda.
In response, Nakumatt, Kenya’s leading supermarket chain store and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) did take the bait and have both a presence within the local economy.
It was also during this meeting that Rwanda’s hosting of the Commonwealth Business Forum was announced, even though it was not yet a member of the Commonwealth group.
It was barely a year after Rwanda submitted its membership application during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Uganda.
Part on the agenda of the Commonwealth Business Forum explored the practical steps to which government and the private sector could take to drive the implementation of the reforms, and it also addressed issues related to acceleration of infrastructure development, trade and movement of goods and services, access to finance for development, improving the investment climate as well as deepening of internal investments.
According to Francis Gatare, Deputy Chief Executive Officer RDB, ‘The Commonwealth Business Forum was called with an intent of solidifying the achievements of the past investment conferences and to find solutions to challenges affecting the regional investment regime’.
The meeting attracted more than 700 participants drawn from the business communities in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.
International exhibitions also provided the much needed boost in efforts to promote Rwanda as a favourable investment destination.
At least 26 local business companies exhibited at the second Rwanda Business Follow-up Series and Expo ’08 in London.
Companies were drawn from the handicraft, coffee, tea, banking, agro-processing and tour operating industries. With the theme ‘Expanding Investment and Market Opportunities for Rwanda’, the exhibition was aimed at exposing Rwandan products and services to the UK market.
This was expected to sustain interest and demand for Rwandan products and investment opportunities among the business communities in the UK.
London was chosen for the showcase because Great Britain is Europe’s main tea and coffee consumer. It is highly anticipated that this year’s figures for inbound investments will hit over Rwf300 billion figure.
With the presence of a super board the RBD which has been tasked to increase the country’s competitiveness it is expected that the year 2009 may be another landmark in the history of the Rwandan investment sector.