When Mr Joseph Habineza was appointed Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, sometime early this year, most of us in the media, had no idea that the former sports minister would, within a short period of time, be transformed from an avid sports administrator and policy maker into an aggressive investment promotion diplomat.
It was when uncle Joe descended back on Kigali, from Abuja after his short stint as diplomat, with a huge Nigerian business delegation that accompanied President GoodLuck Jonathan, that some of us in the media started taking a more keen interest in how the new Rwandan envoy is trying to shape the Rwando-Nigerian bilateral ties.
I remember during a state dinner for the visiting Nigerian delegation at Serena Hotel, Uncle Joe, as he is fondly known in sports circles in Kigali, cut an image of a very serious investment promoter, complete with his ever smiling face and beaming, outgoing personality. While toasting to the onset of a new beginning between Rwanda and Nigeria, those of us in the media kept asking one question. While the delegation was huge and loaded with a good number of Nigerian business magnates, one thing kept ringing very loudly in our minds;
Is Africa’s richest man, the legendary Aliko Dangote going to put his dollars in Rwanda?
For one, given his business rankings, Aliko Dangote can be equated to Miss Africa-the most beautiful woman of the continent. One can give such an analogy due to the obvious attention given to beautiful women by potential suitors.
In a continent that is hungry for investors, how many investment promotion officers across the entire continent are ever going to get the opportunity to ask Aliko Dangote to invest in their respective countries? That was the question I asked Clare Akamanzi, RDB Chief Operating Officer (COO) during a dinner hosted by RDB for visiting Nigerian journalists, a while ago.
I told Ms Akamanzi, I had considered the mere fact that Aliko Dangote wanted to explore opportunities in Rwanda, constituted a very big business story. In my mind, I had even penned a title for my story-“Aliko Dangote mulls investing in Rwanda”.
I was just scouting for more facts to put the story together.
“Not at all, Fred, at RDB, so far, we have not received anything official from the Dangote Group in terms of scouting of opportunities in Rwanda”, was Ms Akamanzi reply. But, I knew that such a statement by RDB COO was a classic guarded response by a public official. So I was not going to give in easily to my story idea.
I reminded the RDB COO that we are not talking about firm commitments here, but mere thoughts by Africa’s richest man saying that Rwanda is a worthwhile investment destination, was worth something to write about.
Then one of the Nigerian journalists at the dinner table literally came to my rescue. The journalist who works as a financial and investment analyst with one of the leading Nigerian papers said that sources close to the Dangote Group had intimated to him prior to his trip to Kigali that, indeed Dangote is, after all, seriously exploring opportunities in Rwanda within various sectors.
“It is not mere speculation but just a matter of time before the billionaire plus his circle of friends and associates, makes a move in Rwanda. It will be a substantial move by any account,” the journalist pointed out.
We continued chatting about what Nigerians are thinking about Rwanda as a businessmen destination. From the conversation I concluded that there is indeed a story to tell. To drive my thoughts home, it did not escape my mind, that as Africa’s foremost cement baron , known for having established a string of huge cement factories across Africa in the last 6 months, a takeover of national cement maker Cimerwa Ltd would not sound a bad deal for someone of Dangote’s caliber. Especially, given the fact that a huge reconstruction agenda is currently ongoing, that needs a top ranking national cement factory.
The author is an editor with The New Times