A bio-fuel project that could potentially propel the country to a middle-income economy is on a standstill due to lack of a friendly policy. The project is one of the ventures started by the government as a sustainable strategy to make the country self-reliant as far as fuel production is concerned.
It has been run by the Rwanda Institute of Science and Technology (IRST) at Mulindi in Gasabo District, but it has been dogged by a myriad of challenges for the past several years that it was eventually forced to stop bio-diesel production over a year ago. The plant used to produce 2,000 litres of bio-diesel a day and planned to increase the out put.
IRST was on July 29 transformed into the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) after the government gazetted the law establishing the agency. The policy has been gathering dust at the Ministry of Education headquarters for about five years now. Without the policy, it would be practically impossible to market the venture and attract private sector investment to expand bio-fuel production, and that of related industries, including making of fertilisers and industrial chemicals.
So, how will we achieve EDPRS II growth targets when a key project has not been supported to grow and fuel the economy? Are we having our priorities right? Or have we fallen victim to oil cartel lords? The bio-fuel industry could easily employ hundreds of thousands of youth, and specialised graduates along its value chain.
If we can save $300m a year (that could have been used to import 160 million litres of fossil diesel) and allocate it to other sectors of the economy, where is the problem?
How will the self-reliance gospel have meaning if we cannot give the necessary support to projects like the bio-fuel development? NIRDA will be able to produce about 50,000 litres of bio-diesel per day initially. But clearly, with necessary support they can easily expand. Let’s walk the talk and live the self-reliant gospel.