My visit to Rwanda comes at an historic time for Britain. My home has begun the process of leaving the European Union, and concentrate on becoming an outward-facing, global, free-trading nation.
I was born in East Africa and this is a region of the world that I am truly passionate about. And, as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Rwanda, I am determined to ensure that one of the many advantages of Brexit is a strengthening of the partnership between the UK and Rwanda.
We have already started to make progress. In May the first RwandAir flight to London will depart Kigali International Airport.
These flights are a bridge connecting our two nations, and I am delighted that the efforts of so many Government officials – and others – in London and Kigali have helped to bring about this historic connection.
But there is a lot more we can do. Rwanda has made amazing progress over the past twenty-three years and is one of the best places to do business in Africa. It should be a magnet to British businesses; and likewise there are dozens of amazing Rwandan goods and services that should be available to purchase in Britain.
As Prime Minister Theresa May’s Trade Envoy to Rwanda, my role is simple: Help to create new opportunities in Rwanda so it can industrialise faster, trade more and create new and productive jobs for its growing young population.
During my visit to Rwanda, I met Government ministers and officials as well as many businesses. I believe we are natural partners, through our shared language, values and Commonwealth membership, and I want to start a revolution in trade between our nations.
Our team are reviewing UK-Rwanda relations to see what we can do to make trading easier.
As well as the RwandAir flights to London, UK Visas and Immigration recently announced priority Visa service for Rwandan residents, making it easier than ever before to travel to the UK.
And today I’m delighted to announce that the coverage limit of UK Export Finance in Rwanda has been doubled, from £50m to £100m. This move is a clear demonstration of the UK Government’s commitment to enhanced trade relations with Rwanda.
Quite simply, British companies and their Rwandan buyers now have access to an extra £50m to help them bring British products, services and expertise into the Rwandan market.
I believe this is important. It’s a vote of confidence to Rwanda that we want to do more trade with you, and we want to make that trade as easy as possible. It can help to fund everything from major infrastructure projects through to smaller commercial deals, and will be of great mutual benefit to our two great nations.
Rwanda is one of the most brilliant countries I have ever visited. With its well-educated workforce, good infrastructure links and strong reputation for ‘ease of doing business’, it has set an example for so many other countries to follow.
Similarly, Britain is a global outward-looking nation that has decided to embrace the wider-world. Our nations are already great partners in many areas, and I believe – with the forthcoming flights and increase in UK Export Finance coverage - we now have the foundations to take our trade relationship to another level.
The writer is the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Rwanda