Rwanda as a member of the East African Community (EAC) is to host the first ever East African Investment Conference from 26th to 28th June 2008.
IGNATIUS SSUUNA and EDDIE MUKAAYA asked Vincent Karega, the State Minister in Charge of Industry and Investment Promotion, what the potential forum has to offer Rwanda and the region.
Q: What exactly is the East African Investment Conference?
A: The conference is a regional Investment round table to discuss investment opportunities, challenges and solutions to investment. It is the first regional investment meeting between East African member states and we are proud that Kigali, Rwanda is hosting.
The EAC Secretariat initiated this programme as a way forward to harmonise the investment code of member states and ensure smooth integration. Member states supported this idea overwhelmingly since it would generate huge economic benefits in the long run for the benefit of people in the region and beyond.
Many business people who have never visited Rwanda will get an opportunity to witness business opportunities available here. The point here is that business people will go back and spread the gospel concerning our business opportunities to the rest of the world.
Q: Why do you think Rwanda was picked to host the conference?
A: I think Rwanda was chosen to host the conference because the country’s investment climate has improved a lot. It is a country with a weak background having experience times of terror. Few people thought of visiting Rwanda, leaving alone investing.
Rwanda’s economic transformation is on course and I believe it is healthy now to invest in Rwanda. And probably, due to the intensive investment campaign the country has instilled. The other point is that Rwanda has managed to expose her investment opportunities to the rest of the world.
Q: Who are the organisers of the conference?
A: The Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA), but in collaboration with the East African Community Secretariat and the Regional Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs). Attendance is free.
Q: Who is expected to attend?
A: Regional Business executives, EAC Secretariat, the EAC Business Council and other investment stakeholders are expected to attend. It is expected that over 700 delegates will be part of the forum.
Q: Is Rwanda prepared to handle this big delegation?
A: RIEPA in collaboration with the East African Community Secretariat and the Regional IPAs are putting the final touches on the preparation. Accommodation is in a good state. Our people here are good at reception. Generally, we are well prepared to handle this event.
Q: What are some of the expectations in term of benefits from the conference to the region?
A: Firstly, the two-day conference will engage potential investors in the region in business promotion, spur economic growth by creating a larger market for goods and services produced within the participating countries.
It will therefore highlight the region’s potential as a commercial platform for servicing the continent. And as an ambitious economic bloc, it is imperative for EAC member states to work together to promote investment inflows in the region.
As you know, the region is a large market and is rich in culture and minerals. We need to position ourselves to be able to market the EAC to foreign investors as well as to local investors. There is also need to come up with policies that favour market development which would ensure investor confidence.
Q: You have only revealed the regional bloc benefiting only. But how will Rwanda as a host benefit individually?
A: Generally, the aim is to market the EAC investment opportunities as a bloc of 120 million people rather than individual countries.
But it is also paramount to note that the conference has come at a time when the Rwandan Government is in a campaign to attract investors, promote and strengthen the private sector development in the country.
So it is an opportunity to strengthen the campaign alongside other stakeholders in the economy – being the EAC members.
Rwanda will showcase her investment potentials, forge partnerships and learn from others best business practices.
Q: Any message to Rwandan businesspeople?
A: Our people should behave in manner that portrays our image in a positive way. I urge people to mind about protecting the country’s integrity. What they do or how they behave before the visitors will have a long bearing even after the conference is over. Cheating visitors through hiking prices of ordinary commodities should be avoided.
But businesspeople should not get worried because the visitors will stay behind for sometime and effect their businesses. Especially those in the tourism sector should expect better yields for at least seven days during and after the conference.