Main Feature: Investing from afar

Towards the end of every year, Rwandans in the Diaspora head back home for a conference where they play their part in the process of rebuilding their country by exchanging ideas and interacting with their leaders back home. At this years’ conference planned in a few weeks time, they will be encouraged to work towards formalising and registering the businesses and investments they have in the country.
President Kagame addressing members of the Rwandan diaspora community at a past event. (File photo).
President Kagame addressing members of the Rwandan diaspora community at a past event. (File photo).

Towards the end of every year, Rwandans in the Diaspora head back home for a conference where they play their part in the process of rebuilding their country by exchanging ideas and interacting with their leaders back home.

At this years’ conference planned in a few weeks time, they will be encouraged to work towards formalising and registering the businesses and investments they have in the country.

This unique business scenario is likely to have greater prominence as the local business environment is restructured in order to make it more competitive. Frank Kagabo reports.

Francis Gatare the deputy Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) says that registering such businesses and having them professionally run so that their impact on the economy can be well documented should actually be a key component of undertaking such investments.

Gatare reveals that at the moment there is no tracking of all the remittances by the people in the Diaspora.

Gatare who is in charge of business operations and services within the Government’s new mega parastatal-the RDB, says that they will be encouraging Rwandans out there to send their investment cash through the local banks and with an intent of enabling such investors ‘to capture the sectors which such inflows are targeting’.

Apart from sending money to their home country, a number of them are involved in importing Rwandan products and finding for them markets in Europe and North America. They import products like Rwanda coffee and sell them in places like Brussels and New York.

Gatare says that in a way Rwandans living in foreign countries may have opportunities to borrow money and invest in their home country.

This is an opportunity they are encouraged to use to continuously grow their potential to do private investments locally.

Having their businesses legalised, also plays in the self interest of the people living abroad. This helps to avoid the possibility of being cheated by their local business partners or managers.

‘When the businesses are legal, it is very difficult for someone to rip you off’, says the RDB deputy CEO. Thus formalising such businesses helps to ensure that they continue to play a positive role in the national development process without the fear of losing one’s investments.

Traditionally most people, who live in the Diaspora, are known to have businesses with friends and relatives. Others simply trust their relatives to supervise and run their investments on their behalf. But this provides no guarantees that such arrangements can ensure sustainability of these operations.

Investing at home while away

According to Gatare, Rwanda stands to gain a lot from the human resource potentialities of its Diaspora community. He says that several have experience that can be very important for their home country.

At the same time the long years of Rwandans living abroad have created a situation whereby some have an education background that may be at an advantage compared to those living here.

Indeed according to Gatare, they are always invited to come and work in their home country for purposes of making a positive contribution to national development. He adds that many have come and stayed and others have worked here on a short term basis.

Not only are they encouraged to make a contribution through working in Rwanda, their views are always important. And it is at such conferences like one slated later this month, that they will be give an opportunity to air their views regarding the country’s development trajectories.

In some developing countries, policies that encourage people to go abroad for work have been adopted. But seemingly, Rwanda is yet to reach that level. 

Gatare says that he does not see such a scenario unfolding in the country.

Unlike some other countries in the region, Rwanda does not have a critical mass of educated young people who can be absorbed into the job market.

Gatare says that the country still has opportunities that can be well exploited by its people including those living outside the country.

‘I do not believe as a country that we have reached a stage where we can export people’, adding that ‘we want people to prosper here’.

However people still find it prudent to relocate abroad on their own initiatives. Such persons incidentally, form part of those who remit money back home for making the investments locally.

However a sizable chunk of such initiatives are done informally. The trend is very common and mostly done with close concert with local relatives of those living abroad.

Due to such shortcomings friction and even wrangles serves at times to arraign the once tight friends or relatives against each other.

Indeed the issue of trust in matters involving money can never be underestimated. In such instances where some are ripped off, they may be forced to take radical measures which create permanent tension with business associates.

Pius Gumisiriza has just completed post graduate studies at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He says that he plans to stay in the Birmingham area ‘for at least a year, in order to earn some good money’.

He hopes to invest back home. He says that he will not be sending the money to anyone, but instead will save and invest when he is around to supervise his own businesses.

Not all need to worry however about how to safely invest. In Rwanda, the government owned institution Social Security Fund builds houses that even people in the Diaspora can access and buy directly without any hitch.

More still the newly instituted stock exchange provides yet another avenue for investing in some of the best corporate entities in the economy. It is no longer necessary to send money through relatives. In most cases they have problems at hand and would instead use the money to solve their problems first.

Paul Muvunyi a local operative says that his father has never come back from the United Kingdom since the late 90s but has always contracted companies to develop projects for him and he owns a house in the Gacuriro Casse Sociale estates.

‘I monitor our property and report to my dad if there is anything wrong. He hopes to come back soon though he is not sure when and that’s why he has tried to establish some projects here in Rwanda’, says Muvunyi.

He further says that among such investments, his father owns shares in a number of businesses though he declines to mention any of them.

Generally people in the Diaspora contribute a lot to the development of their countries back home especially here in Africa.

But the critical question will always be who implements projects of those in the Diaspora. Licensed companies would always do the job better due to legal provisions related to running of such entities.

Ambassadors

The ministry of foreign affairs has a desk that is specifically charged with the role of liaising with the different Diaspora associations. But not all people living out of the country have good intentions. Some are involved in negative campaigns against their own country.

Gatare says that most people who live out of the country have a duty to convince those with negative intentions to abandon their misguided campaigns.

‘They can be instrumental in building a good foundation for this country’s investment landscape.…they have a role to play in unifying the people and convince those involved in bad things to abandon their negative ideology’, he added.

In a largely interdependent world where many international investors are looking for ways and avenues for undertaking investments in other countries, Rwandans living abroad are also seen as a vehicle for promoting the image of their country with a view of attracting international investments.

They are always encouraged to communicate the positive values of their country, such as trade, tourism potential and the good environment for doing business in Rwanda. In a way Rwanda’s Diaspora community can actually serve as very good ambassadors for the country’s investment drives.

Contact: frank2kagabo@yahoo.com

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