KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, yesterday said that the linking of markets will not only help unlock the investment and trade potential that Africa and the region have, but will greatly help improve the standards of living among the population.
Kagame made the remarks during his keynote address at the opening of the Rwanda Investment Forum. He pointed out that Africa can transform its trade potential to reality if its economies open up borders and join regional and continental blocs to form larger markets.
“Linking markets is critical to unlocking the full business potential that continues to mainly exist as potential, particularly in Africa,” he said.
“Despite modest infrastructure networks, intra-Africa trade still surpasses foreign trade and the bulk of economic growth is driven by small domestic businesses.”
President Kagame cited the East African market with a population of about 130 million, the COMESA community with close to half a billion people, as well as the broader Commonwealth market of a billion, as some of the blocs Rwanda has chosen to join.
He reminded the over 200 delegates, who included local and international investors, of the importance of foreign direct investments, as a catalyst to domestic entrepreneurship and how partnerships between neighbouring countries can play a vital role in establishing international connections.
The President went on to emphasize that the role of the Government of Rwanda, in this regard, is to ensure peace and stability for investments to flourish.
“We work to guarantee your safety and the security of your businesses. We have liberalised all sectors of our economy and your significant presence at this forum is a welcome sign that foreign and domestic investors can benefit from one another, as can our economies,” Kagame said.
He added that Rwanda reckons that businesses need facilitation to prosper, and continues to streamline the legal and institutional environment in a bid to reduce the cost of doing business and eliminate unnecessary barriers.
Kagame said that Rwanda is poised to effectively operate in the Commonwealth market of 1 billion people and that Rwandans are ready to make their contribution as well as partake on the benefits.
“If you choose to invest in Rwanda, you will find in us reliable partners and together we will create wealth for a significant number of the citizens within the Commonwealth and beyond,” Kagame told the forum.
“You will also have made a rewarding investment decision because you will be part of the ongoing story of Rwanda’s transformation. I invite you to join us.”
The Chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), Dr. Pascal Dozie, commended Rwanda’s efforts to link its private sector with the CBC, even before joining the Commonwealth group.
Dozie, who is also the Chairman of MTN Nigeria and the Diamond Group, noted that, unlike some African economies, Rwanda sustained a steady economic growth amidst the economic crisis, therefore, attracting several investors.
“In recent years, we have seen the increase of investment into a marginal frontier market as countries introduce policy reforms and focussed attention on infrastructure development, particularly in the telecommunications sector,” Dozie said.
“Rwanda’s progress in creating a conducive and stable environment in doing business has been impressive, the country jumped 67 places in the doing business rankings between 2009 and 2010 and this is an example to be emulated by all African countries.”
Dr. Mohan Kaul, the Director General of the CBC, which jointly organised the forum with Rwanda Development Board, pointed out that Rwanda, as a top business reformer in the world, stands a better chance to benefit from the larger Commonwealth family.
“The priority you have accorded to enhancing economic development through trade and development with a strong private sector involvement will no doubt yield results,” Kaul said.
“One of the key reasons for Rwanda joining the Commonwealth was to benefit from the group and we hope that will happen in the next two days.”
The Commonwealth official also noted that the country’s progress in the last 16 years, as well as its future plans have made Rwanda attractive to investors.
According to John Gara, the CEO of RDB, over 100 investors from different parts of the world are attending the forum and a number of them have already expressed interest in investing in agro-processing, manufacturing, ICT, construction and real estate among others.
The two day forum that ends today is the first official Commonwealth related function the country has hosted since joining the 54 member bloc in November 2009.