What should China and Rwanda do to overcome potential obstacles in their relationship? Global Times (GT) reporter Liu Jianxi talked with Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga on these issues.

Photo:Liu Jiaxin/GT

China and Rwanda have been engaged in close economic and trade partnership for more than two decades. While China is capable of boosting Rwanda's investment and trade, Rwanda plays a vital role in China's One Belt and One Road initiative. How has Beijing's aid model contributed to Rwanda's development? What should the two countries do to overcome potential obstacles in their relationship? Global Times (GT) reporter Liu Jianxi talked with Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga (Kayonga) on these issues.
GT: Chinese President Xi Jinping held meetings with visiting Rwanda President Paul Kagame in March. What is your view on the outcomes of the recent bilateral meeting?
Kayonga: First of all, this is a very successful meeting because it sets up very good conditions for political cooperation between our two countries. Our cooperation is based on the mutual understandings of the shared vision between our countries in sustainable development and independence. Both presidents had a chance to reflect on the common understandings and improve party-to-party relations. The Communist Party of China and the Rwandan Patriotic Front are both founded on people-centered political philosophy, so it is a very productive meeting for continued bilateral cooperation.
GT: Rwanda is known in the past for the 1994 genocide, but its achievements in recent years are outstanding. Its annual GDP growth has reached 7 percent on average. Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the fifth cleanest governance out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. What have contributed to these achievements?
Kayonga: The first thing is leadership. Without progressive leadership that understands the conditions of the country and sets the vision, we cannot have anything. Since 1994, we have a government that focuses on development. So leadership is very important.
Secondly, we have stability in our country, which allows us to do what we want. We have achieved this stability through our political philosophy. In the past, the government in Rwanda followed an ideology that divided people, which is not conducive to development. The current government's philosophy is unity and reconstruction. This harnesses the energies of the total population for development. The conditions for development resulted from the implementation of the philosophy. Leadership and stability are the two most important factors for Rwanda's development.
GT: It has been decades since China invested in Rwanda. How has the Chinese investment contributed to Rwanda's development?
Kayonga: Since China's reform and opening-up, there have been monumental developments in African countries. Back in Rwanda, good China-Rwanda political cooperation has driven economic development. We have many projects in Rwanda which involve China.
Chinese companies are involved in many infrastructure projects, for instance, roads and buildings. Even in public services such as health, we have a lot of support from China; we have two hospitals that are built by China. In agriculture, we have irrigation projects in Rwanda that are being managed by Chinese companies. We also have China-invested agricultural research centers which are very helpful for people to overcome poverty, given the methods used to grow things like mushrooms.
China is also involved in Rwanda's industrial development. We have a strategy in Rwanda today called "made in Rwanda." With this strategy, we are encouraging Chinese and other companies to come and invest here so that we can make our own products.
In the education sector, China has provided scholarships for Rwandan students studying in China, and also helped us build schools, especially vocational schools in Rwanda.
The vision of Rwanda is to develop a technology-based and science-oriented economy, so we mainly focus on developing our human resources. That's why we are continuing this collaboration with China in the education sector.
GT: Some Western countries accuse China of being only interested in Africa for its mineral resources and market potential for Chinese-made products. What is your take on this?
Kayonga: These Western countries are critical because of their history in Africa. They were in Africa for centuries, but what do we see in the continent of Africa? Colonization and neo-colonization. Now, there's a change on the face of Africa with Chinese involvement in the last three decades, when China was also developing.
From our point of view in Rwanda, among the many countries investing in Africa, China is the progressive force that is helping the development of our continent. China's approach is based on win-win and mutual respect, and this is what is happening and will benefit us.
GT: Unlike the West, China has been applying new methods to fundamentally change Africa's development mode, for instance, providing the continent with trade and investment opportunities. Which aid model is more suitable to Africa, the Chinese one or the Western one?
Kayonga: I think the Chinese model is more suitable for Africa. As the Chinese saying goes, instead of giving somebody a fish, teach them how to fish. I think this is what is happening. The Western kind of aid, most of the times, is political and is tied to some conditions, which China doesn't do. I see China-Rwanda cooperation as a win-win partnership. I think this is the best for Africa.
GT: Africa plays an important role in China's One Belt and One Road initiative. What's the prospect of the Belt and Road initiative on the continent?
Kayonga: The China-initiated One Belt and One Road initiative is good for Africa, and is also in line with the vision of our continent's Agenda 2063, which talks about integrating the continent. The Belt and Road initiative is one of the mechanisms for infrastructural development.
In East Africa, there is a ring road project which is supposed to go through Uganda, Rwanda, and potentially Burundi and Congo. If this project succeeds, the Belt and Road initiative, for the first time, will enter the center of Africa.
Rwanda is the convergence of the East and Central Africa. This is where the two big regions meet, very important regions in terms of agriculture, mineral resources, capacity, and conditions for tourism. Through the Belt and Road initiative, reaching Rwanda and beyond, we have succeeded in integrating Africa. Not only will it support political integration in Africa, but also facilitate the integration of the continent's economy into the global economy. Africa has all kinds of mineral resources and agricultural capability, and the Belt and Road initiative is important to Africa.
GT: Rwanda has recorded a trade deficit with China. What should be done to realize a trade balance between the two?
Kayonga: It is true that there is a trade imbalance. We are trying to reform it. During the Xi-Kagame meeting, the two sides pledged to encourage Chinese investors to invest in Rwanda and support Rwanda's industrial development by supporting free trade zones, financing and planning and so on. If, instead of exporting raw materials, we add value and export products, then the trade balance will be improved.
President Xi also talked with his Rwandan counterpart about creating good conditions to draw tourists to Rwanda. The good thing is China has identified Rwanda as one of the preferred destinations for Chinese tourists. What we are doing in Rwanda is to improve the tourism sector.
GT: What are your thoughts about the future of China-Africa and China-Rwanda cooperation?
Kayonga: The future of China-Africa and China-Rwanda cooperation is bright because our cooperation is historical and based on fundamental values, mutual trust, respects and win-win partnership. Such relationship is not biased or hypocritical, and has lasted for quite a long time. It has been tested by time.
We should continue the mutual support and cooperation. Following the Johannesburg Summit in December 2015, a road map to sustainable development was signed between our leaders, outlining cooperation in different sectors. We are now implementing this agenda. We should continue to enhance the deep cooperation between China and Africa. China-Rwanda relationship is based on the politics of unity, independence and sustainable development.