Rwanda eyes investment from Bangladesh

Rwanda has taken a strong diplomatic effort to enhance economic ties with Bangladesh.

To encourage foreign investment, the small central-east African nation, has reformed its overseas investment policies simplifying application process while developing infrastructure and communication networks.

A one-stop shop serves to offer reviewing of application faster and in a simple manner.

Ernest Rwamucyo, High Commissioner of Rwanda to Bangladesh, resident in New Delhi, India, in an exclusive interview with Bangladesh Post on Friday revealed plans to expand economic relations.

Recognising Bangladesh’s strong economic growth and development in many crucial areas like overcoming the challenges of food production, Rwanda shows interests in ready-made garments, agriculture, jute and pharmaceutical industries of Bangladesh for investment in the country.

Rwanda is a country in central-east Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African continent. The population of Rwanda is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda.

Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 genocide, with widespread loss of life, failure to maintain infrastructure, looting, and neglect of important cash crops. This caused a large drop in GDP and destroyed the country's ability to attract private and external investment. The economy has since strengthened, with per-capita GDP estimated at US$2,090 in 2017, compared with US$416 in 1994.

The industrial sector is small, contributing 14.8 percent of GDP in 2014. Products manufactured include cement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles and cigarettes.

Speaking to this correspondent Rwamucyo elaborated how the two developing nations could have mutual benefits and further develop the relations. He is now visiting Bangladesh, especially looking into business opportunities for Bangladeshi investors in Rwanda.

He said, "We have a very strong relationship with Bangladesh which goes back many years, especially when you look at the history of Rwanda and somehow Bangladesh have had a positive role in nation building after Rwanda's terrible 1994 genocide where about a million people were massacred in one of the worst history of the nation."

He recalled that Bangladesh was one of the countries which sent its peacekeepers under the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions in Rwanda for restoring peace and provide public safety. He mentioned that Bangladesh made a very positive and strong presence in Rwanda in the aftermath of the massacre and the two nations have a shared history. "But going forward in diplomatic engagement we are also looking forward to enhancing trade between our friendly nations," said a confident voice of the envoy.

Asked to share about his countrymen's views on Bangladesh's successful peacekeeping missions, he said, "The commitment and discipline of the Bangladeshi soldiers and their officers was highly appreciated although it was very difficult time then in Rwanda. But for a country to send its soldiers to play a role in bringing stability and peace in Rwanda it was quite a sacrifice on the part of Bangladesh."

He elaborated that Rwanda, now a stable nation and fast growing economic power, also contributes to the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, learning from Bangladesh army.

On trade opportunities his Excellency Rwamucyo described Bangladesh as a 'big economy' saying that Bangladesh has done well in certain areas. He mentioned Bangladesh's growing ready-made garments (RMG) industry which he said is Rwanda's special interest but he also eyed Bangladesh's jute industry.

He said, "Historically Bangladesh is known to be one of the largest producers of jute and jute products. Since Rwanda has banned use of plastic products recently it creates an opportunity for us to manufacture alternative packaging materials from use of jute from Bangladesh.

“So jute being more eco-friendly we are obviously looking into possible venturing in producing such eco-friendly materials that would serve the purpose of Rwanda,” he proposed

The soft spoken envoy also said that a Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company is already investing in manufacturing pharmaceutical products in special economic zone in Rwanda. "So, this is another area where we can work together.”

In an apparent appreciation Rwamucyo said, "Bangladesh has done very well in agriculture being able to feed its population and also have surplus to export so we are looking at how Rwanda can exploit such potential.”

He explained that Bangladesh and Rwanda being at different scale share similar challenges. He said, "Both the countries are densely populated. But what is noteworthy is that despite having a high concentration of people, Bangladesh demonstrated optimum use of its land to produce sufficient amount of crops. I am sure Rwanda could learn the mechanisms and the appropriate agriculture technologies to increase crop output in a similar fashion."

On a more serious note his Excellency said, "We have just concluded a joint business and media delegation visiting Rwanda. The idea of the visit was to get to know the country and also explore opportunities for trade and investment in Rwanda. So I am actually here in Dhaka to meet the same delegation so that both the countries can invest and increase trade."

On the issues of Bangladeshis learning from Rwanda, he said that mining and tourism are two areas where Bangladeshi investors can explore. He also mentioned that manufacturing, plastics and steels are other potential areas where Bangladeshis can do mutual business.

Coming back to RMG industry he said that Rwanda has unlimited access to duty-free export products to the European Union and the US. So Bangladesh garments manufacturers could also explore opportunities of stitching clothes and export finished products.

He pointed out that Rwanda is one the easiest place to do business in terms of the World Bank doing business ranking. Rwanda is one the countries to introduce reforms in the fastest possible ways. It now has one of the best environments for doing business for foreigners with easy and simple mechanisms to open account, reveal tax identification number and get registration.

He said, “We provide one-stop shop for foreign investors which we already provided to Bangladeshi companies. So Rwanda being a politically stable and peaceful country is actually inviting a lot of foreign investments. We have good infrastructure, good roads, high speed internet, good communication networks, and a friendly people to support business.”

He also cited that a presence of growing number of Bangladeshi population in Rwanda. He said, “As a growing economy in the African continent Rwanda now attracts skilled human resources. So Rwanda is also open to foreign labourers and also experts.

To facilitate and attract investment we have introduced on-arrival visa irrespective of which passport you are holding. And then if you are planning on to live and work in Rwanda you can get work permit which is a simple procedure and also cheap.”

He emphasized on investing in the eco-tourism industry including safari in Rwanda where there are rare wild animals like the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.

His Excellency concluded by mentioning that a lot of Rwanda businessmen could partner with Bangladeshi businessmen exploring areas like textiles and pharmaceuticals.

He said, “To expand trade between the two nations we have appointed Honorary Council here in Bangladesh which is our representation signifying our strong presence. To further enhance relations between the two countries we recently organized visit of business and media delegation in Rwanda.”

“We also plan to bring similar delegation from Rwanda so that people of Rwanda can also see the potentials available here in Dhaka. In such manner we feel very confident that traffic between the two countries would keep improving in the near future. We aim to build more people to people connection and increase business between investors of the two countries.”

Your Excellency, thank you very much for your time.