Africa's 'least-corrupt' Rwanda looks for Indian investments

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Rwanda, a nation of just 11 million people that is seen as the newest African success story and also hailed as the "least corrupt country in Africa", is looking to tap into the entrepreneurial dynamism of smaller Indian cities for investments in the country's development, its envoy here says.

"In this short time here, I am realizing that there is a lot of possibility of doing business with the tier-two and tier-three cities in India, from cities like Pune, Jaipur and Coimbatore. There is a lot of medium and small businesses in such places which are keen to explore opportunities in Rwanda," Rwandan High Commissioner Ernest Rwamucyo told IANS in an interview.

India's strengths in the IT and service sectors make it well placed to exploit opportunities in Rwanda as it transforms from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented one, as envisaged in its Vision 2020 document enunciating the long-term strategy for change.

The success of Rwanda's on-going transformation can be gauged from the fact that within a decade of launching Vision 2020 in 2000 by President Paul Kagame, it became in 2010 the World Bank's highest-ranked economy for doing business. Rwanda's GDP growth in 2013 is projected at 7.8 percent, making it the ninth fastest growing economy in the world.

And this was a country that suffered years of internecine strife that led to almost a million people being killed in the 1994 genocide,

While inviting Indian businessmen to invest in his country's development, Rwamucyo pointed out that global corruption watchdog Transparency International had in July ranked Rwanda as the "least corrupt country in Africa". With a bribery rate of 13 percent, Rwanda is ranked the 13th least corrupt country worldwide.

Rwamucyo has been conducting road shows to attract Indian investors to sectors. In a presentation here recently, Rwamucyo spoke of how the World Bank in 2013 ranked Rwanda 52 out of 185 on "ease of doing business" and eight on "ease in starting a business." It is also the second most improved nation globally and the top improved in sub-Saharan Africa since 2005.

Then there is the exceptional case of traditionally Francophone Rwanda switching over its education system to English that deepens the scope and possibilities of India-Rwanda cooperation, particularly in the spheres of education, exchange and human capacity building.

"Our move to popularize English, and efforts to join the East African Community and the Commonwealth were all designed to reach out to the wider world. English has emerged as a backbone of growth and development not only in the region but around the globe," Rwamucyo said.

The former German and Belgian colony joined the Commonwealth in 2009, becoming only the second country after Mozambique to enter the league of former British colonies without a similar past.

"Rwanda's special ties with India predate our joining the Commonwealth. Like elsewhere in East Africa, Rwanda also has many persons of Indian origin, while its current importance can be seen from the fact that India has become the biggest source of FDI (foreign direct investment) in Rwanda," Rwamucyo noted.

"There's no single country in Africa with so many students in India as Rwanda has, with over 2,000 of them studying here. Rwandan students find Indian education very relevant, as also affordable," the high commissioner said.

The country's only modern textile mill, sugar refinery and cosmetics factory are owned by persons of Indian origin.

The high commissioner said the setting up of major India-supported projects in Rwanda like the India-Africa Vocational Training Centre, a food testing laboratory and the India-Africa Entrepreneurship Development Centre were on track, with the last scheduled to be completed by December.

India has also extended an $80 million line of credit to Rwanda for constructing a 27.5 MW hydroelectric power plant on the Nyabarongo river.

Bilateral trade stood at $49 million in 2011-12, registering nearly a 50 percent growth over the previous fiscal. The balance is heavily tilted in India's favour.

"Though trade between our countries is good, I believe we have only scratched the surface of our potential," said Rwamucyo.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at biswajit.c@ians.in)

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