President Paul Kagame has been in Europe and Asia, talking about business opportunities here in Rwanda. The President is urging foreign businesspeople to invest in the country. During the trip, he met Singaporeans, Vietnamese and other political and business leaders in Europe.
He explained the country’s efforts to improve the business climate and encouraged investors to take advantage of opportunities the country offers. He took them through the business possibilities in Rwanda, 14 years after the Genocide.
The President cited energy, infrastructure, tourism, mining and other sectors which are still virgin and in need of exploitation. A visitor to Rwanda will tell you that here is a government committed to building a strong economy. Foreign investment is to play a crucial part development.
Investment opportunities in Rwanda are little known abroad with many outsiders associating Rwanda with the Genocide alone.
The Government today under its investment arm Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (Riepa), is doing everything possible to increase Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
Government is particularly keen to attract investors in ICT-related activities and has set up a TechnoPark to encourage this.
Red carpet incentives, such as the ten days period for investors to get all the necessary working documents, are designed to make doing business in Rwanda easier.
Rwanda is borrowing the Singapore development strategy. Like Singapore, Rwanda is a corruption-free country, a rarity in Africa and an important motivating factor for potential investors.
Many African countries are corruption ridded. Corruption can destroy the economy, the politics and indeed the whole image of the country.
Corruption intolerance played a key role for the development of countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
Rwanda’s emphasis on ensuring security for the businesspeople is already bearing results.
Riepa explains that investors cite security in Rwanda as the biggest factor luring them into the country.
Riepa argues that improving on financial services, commodities exchanges, manufacturing, exports, and a well-developed infrastructure will make Rwanda a developed country in the future.
Rwanda has sustained its growth through unusually clean and efficient government, and by being a beacon of stability since 1994.
Looking to the sky
Dr. Ameen Talib, a visiting lecturer at the Kigali School of Finance and Banking from Singapore, explained in an interview that business opportunities in Rwanda are wide.
After officiating at a workshop on effective performance management for managers, Talib explained how Rwanda’s disadvantage of not having a substantial cargo transportation link with the rest of the world, like a port , can be transformed into an advantage, through directing rid of corruption. Countries like Rwanda or Singapore shall remain a vibrant business epicentre for the investors.
The Singapore economy is remarkable; it is highly developed and is doing extremely well in an open and corruption-free environment.
Investor activity in Rwanda
On the strength of good business climate, investors have already begun doing business in Rwanda. They are very active in tourism, mining, housing, industry, hotels, finance and energy.
Some of the latest investors include Dubai World, a major holding company owned by the United Arab Emirates. The Arab group is investing approximately $230 million (Frw125 billion) in eight tourism facilities in the country, including a hotel and a residential golf course development in the capital Kigali and lodges in the Akagera and Volcanoes national parks.
According to Riepa, tourism is a pillar for rapid economic growth and Rwanda’s policy choice for tourism is that the country becomes a high end destination capitalising on unique natural beauty, security and zero tolerance for corruption.
It has pledged to increase its investment portfolio in the country soon. The other is LapGreen, which has taken Rwandatel.
The firm promises to invest $317 million (Frw74 billion) over 15 years to improve telecoms in Rwanda - which includes the $87 million (Frw47 billion) initial investment - for the first 12 months.
A multi-billion convention centre is opening in 2011. A 104,800 square meters site in Kigali is being transformed into a five star hotel with 292 rooms, shops, restaurants, boardrooms, coffee shop, a gym and conferences facilities.
The business is owned jointly by Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP) and Rwanda local investors, Ultimate Concets Ltd. An estimated Frw2.3 billion was paid for the land.
NAKUMATT, a leading department store in Kenya, has also opened up a branch in Rwanda promising to invest $7m (Frw3.5 billion) in a world class supermarket.
It’s hiring 25,000 square foot space to stock more than 20,000 products which include foods, beverages, stationary, electronics, toiletries and furniture.
The influx of investors means that Rwanda is repositioning herself to dispel the prevailing perception of the continent as a place “unfit for business.”
A multiplicity of investors have flocked to Rwanda, from different destinations; some have come in groups, while others have come on individual basis.
What is common amongst all of them, is that they have come in the name of prudence, with new positive things to add to the country.
Despite a wealth of foreign activity, Riepa explains that there are still sectors that are not being fully utilised. As a virgin economy with a guaranteed local and regional market, the opportunities are endless.
President Kagame has shown the way. Now Rwanda needs more ambassadors spreading messages of hope.