EDMOND KAGIRE interviewed Francis Gatare, Director General Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA) about Rwanda’s interests in Islamic investors.
Qn: Rwanda is not a member of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Why did you attend the OIC Business Forum in Kampala?
Gatare: I was invited by the Uganda Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Uganda Investment Authority to use the OIC conference as a platform to market the upcoming 1st East African Investment Forum in Kigali this week. I have used this opportunity to invite foreign delegates and potential investors who may wish to participate in the Rwanda meet.
The OIC is a well resourced and financially strong body. It is a strategic avenue for us to woo investor. It automatically qualifies us as stakeholders, even though we are not members of the OIC.
Qn: Have you been successful in your efforts?
Gatare: I have been able to showcase Rwanda as an area full of investment opportunities and from what I have discussed with OIC directors so far, many groups and individuals have expressed interest in coming to Rwanda.
Riepa, has assured them full co-operation. Most of them have heard about Rwanda but have not had a chance to go there. My role here was to show them the impressive package we have for investors, on top of the beauty and good environment that Rwanda as a country has to offer. They are quite interested.
Qn: OIC Secretary General, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said that there is potential market in the Middle East for most products from East Africa. Is Rwanda ready to exploit this market?
Gatare: Riepa acknowledges the potential market in the Arab world but one has to sit back and review the reasons why trade hasn’t thrived between us and them.
There could be some underlying reason. But at least Rwanda has stable trade relations with Egypt, UAE (United Arab Emirate), Dubai, and Oman. We even have Rwandan communities in these countries, something that has contributed much towards strengthening of Rwanda’s business links with the Arab world.
We also acknowledge the existence of markets in these countries especially for agricultural products since most of them are in are desert countries. We can also use this good economic exposition to avert increasing fuel prices by tapping into the abundant oil resources that these countries are blessed with.
Qn: Riepa being the organiser of East African Investment Conference EAIC, what should the EAC look forward to?
Gatare: This conference is the first of its kind and we chose the theme ‘Leveraging the East African Market through trade and Investment’ because we thought this is the time we started looking at the East African market as one.
Currently each country conducts its business alone, which is not good for the EAC. We want to make EAC one big market and at the same time eliminate individualism among states. This way, we will be able to attract investors.
Investors should not look at a particular country. They should rather be able to look at all the 5 states and be and point at the unique features Rwanda has, Uganda, Kenya or any other country has, as they identify potential areas of investment.
The main aim is to actually market East Africa and showcase it to the investors as a one stop centre for investment blessed with abundant natural resources.
We believe East Africa combined has immense resources that haven’t been tapped yet, this will be an opportunity for us to present our case to the whole world.
Qn: The EAC trade and investment faces some challenges. Will this forum be a platform to identify and address such challenge?
Gatare: Definitely, our research team has already identified a number of challenges which have been affecting investment in East Africa and after the Conference, these obstacles won’t be a problem anymore. We are solving them.
That is the reason I believe that they won’t be anymore. Each of the 5 countries will have a chance to table their problems and we will find solutions.
We decided to pioneer this cause because Rwanda as a country thinks that as East Africans, we can bring a new approach to investment and we have come up with new concepts and approaches which will table during the conference.
Qn: Who are to participate?
Gatare: We are expecting over 800 delegates locally and internationally. Invitations have been honored and we are looking at overwhelming numbers. Companies from East Africa and beyond have registered to participate in the conference.
I have been talking to my Ugandan counterpart and she has told me many Ugandan companies have registered.
Qn: Any message to the business community and the general public?
Gatare: Let’s all join hands and embrace this opportunity that has come to our country (region) to showcase what have. Let’s come together and form one large and diverse business community which will give investors the confidence to invest here. Lets us use the conference as a powerful means to communicate to the whole world.
Everybody should play a part in this initiative.