Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi, a member of Rwanda’s cabinet, is visiting Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth this week in an introductory roadshow, highlighting business-friendly policies.
Rwanda Development Board chief Clare Akamanzi hopes to attract Australian investors.
« We were known for genocide, that is the capital G, then we were known for gorillas and adventure tourism. We like to say we’ve come from genocide to gorillas to growth », Ms Akamanzi told The Australian Financial Review.
. « We are one of the fastest-growing economies on the African continent ... always among the top three. Increasingly we’re getting known for our growth and also the growth potential we give companies that want to set up in Rwanda.
. « What we’re building is the capabilities that can allow us to become a gateway for investors that want to go to Africa but also for Africa to access the rest of the world.
. « We’ve set up a good international financial centre that has put in place an environment in terms of policies, taxes, talent, double taxation agreements that allows money to flow into and through to the rest of Africa. »
Ms Akamanzi cited US drone company Zipline as an example of how Rwanda can help businesses succeed. With the US banning commercial drone operations, Zipline in 2016 signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to pioneer the delivery of blood and eventually other medical supplies in the mountainous country.
After proving the viability of the technology in Africa, Zipline signed a deal with US retail giant Walmart in 2020 for drone delivery services. The company is now valued at more than $US1 billion ($1.5 billion).
Rwanda is one of Africa’s smallest countries, both in terms of population (13.5 million) and land mass (almost 27,000 sq km), and Ms Akamanzi said it invested heavily in its human capital.
. « Our workforce is quite disciplined, with core values like governance, progressiveness, unity and working together, collaboration, » she said.
. « Those are things that make the quality of the human being that Rwanda is able to deliver a lot more of, even if we don’t have other natural resources or big markets.
. « We also know that many times ideas and innovations require a place to be tested. So we have become a prototype, proof-of-concept place. Bring your innovation or idea, and we shall give you the environment to succeed with you. Once you succeed, you go to the bigger markets and scale up there. »
As part of her roadshow, Ms Akamanzi has met with sports officials in Brisbane as it gears up to host the 2032 Olympics, tourist operators, health companies such as Aspen Medical, financial services and fintech firms and miners.
Rwanda is a major producer of tin and tungsten, and has started to branch out to gold and lithium.
. « We know we have a lot more potential for other minerals. And we are looking at building on the capacity of Australian companies to do exploration because we don’t even know how much we have, » Ms Akamanzi said.
As part of attracting businesses and tourists, people could travel to Rwanda and get their visa on arrival, with the cost waived for citizens of Commonwealth and African countries and those of the Francophonie bloc.
She said Rwanda was also establishing a presence hosting major international conferences and sports events. Last year the capital Kigali hosted the CHOGM meeting.
One thing Rwanda boasts about is its strong stance against corruption, with a Transparency International report this year finding it was the fourth least corrupt nation in Africa. Ms Akamanzi said its success came down to both the rules in place and a commitment to upholding them.
While human rights groups have criticised Rwanda’s record on issues such as press and political freedom, Ms Akamanzi insisted . « many of those accusations are false and not based on the truth.»
. « I think what we’ve always been very clear about is whether you are a private entity or government entity, there’s certain things that we don’t accept you to cross the line and that’s division, » she said.
. « We’ve learnt from our past... that divisionism, especially based on ethnicity, has no place in Rwanda. Anybody who uses any platform to do that, obviously we won’t tolerate that. »
The Harvard-educated Ms Akamanzi is part of a cabinet that has 50-50 gender split. Women make up 61 per cent of Rwanda’s parliament.
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