Rwanda—Re-imagining the “Land of a Thousand Hills”

Rwanda—Re-imagining the “Land of a Thousand Hills”

The Kigali Conceptual Master Plan (KCMP) defines the guidelines of the Rwandan capital’s development.
Pictured: concept of the new Kigali Central Business District.

[INTERVIEW]

H.E. Dr. Charles Murigande
Ambassador of Rwanda to Japan

Since the tragedy of the 1994 Genocide that befell the country, eager to learn from it’s past and become a peaceful and developed country, Rwanda has changed considerably. It now boasts as one of the most stable political, economic and social environments in Africa. Rwanda is regularly lauded by international actors such as the World Bank.

JAPAN and the WORLD magazine sat down with the Ambassador of Rwanda to Japan, H.E. Dr. Charles Murigande, to discuss the Land of a Thousand Hills’ extraordinary development.


—The World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports regularly praises the efforts of Rwanda. Ranked 143rd out of 189 countries in 2009 on ease of doing business in the country, it jumped in a single year to 67th in 2010. This tremendous improvement raises the question, “what is next on the agenda of reforms for the private sector”?

We evaluated the current legislature and began reforms in 2009. We moved fast—from being ranked 143rd to 67th in one year. Rwanda is the only country to have achieved this. Over the last five years, we have made several reforms that have enabled Rwanda to rank 46th in 2015.

The Nyabarongo hydropower plant station was inaugurated in March 2015 and will provide Rwanda with a clean source of energy.
The Nyabarongo hydropower plant station was inaugurated in March 2015 and will provide Rwanda with a clean source of energy.

As part of the Northern Corridor Integration initiative, many projects addressing the constraints of regional cross-border trade and business are ongoing with neighboring East African Countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi. These are not only infrastructure developments, but also trade barriers removals. For example, moving a container by land from Mombasa, Kenya, to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, used to take twenty-two days due to the number of trade barriers; it now takes six days. Economic integration is also taking place within the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) consisting of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Regarding solvency, we have not scored quite high yet because although we have enacted law reforms, not many cases have been taken to court and resolved. If you consider business registration, it now takes six hours to register a business in Rwanda, thus it is difficult to improve. In terms of ease of tax filing, we are making progress—tax filing is now available online.

We strive to make it easier to do business in Rwanda. This year, we have undertaken several new reforms such as upgrading our online system for company registration with a new system that will be easier to use, more efficient, and in our three national languages instead of just English.

Rwanda possesses tin, tungsten and coltan—essential minerals for the electronic sector.
Rwanda possesses tin, tungsten and coltan—essential minerals for the electronic sector.

The Rwanda Development Board opened a help desk dedicated to insolvency cases where advice on insolvency issues—especially restructuring as opposed to liquidation—can be obtained. The law regarding insolvency is under review, notably on the topic of cross border insolvency. This is critical given the ongoing integration agenda of the East African Countries and other regional trading blocks.

We also want to promote judicial transparency, thus all judgements regarding contractual and commercial disputes will be made public online.

—For many years, the bilateral relationship between Rwanda and Japan was made through the Embassy of Japan to Kenya. In 2010, Japan opened an embassy in Rwanda, a sign of the strengthening relations between the two countries. What do you see, or hope to see, in the future of Rwanda-Japan relations?

With the presence of Japan’s Embassy in Rwanda, Japanese companies are confident that they can receive correct and objective information from their embassy, and also get protection—if it is needed.

Because there is now an embassy—as well as a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) office in Kigali—we can engage with the Japanese government more efficiently and continuously than when Rwanda was covered by the Japanese Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, or the embassy in Kinshasa, DR Congo. The officials would only travel to Rwanda once every two or three months, which was not enough for them to understand our country, its development issues and its priorities.

But now they are actively present, interacting with our policy makers and implementers. They understand more of Rwanda than before, and we hope this translates into more Japanese engagement in our developmental effort on two levels: the Official Development Assistance—we have seen more projects funded by Japan and also foreign investment. The very fact that there is an embassy of Japan in Rwanda encourages Japanese companies to visit Rwanda and explore its market. With the presence of Japan’s Embassy in Rwanda, Japanese companies are confident they will receive correct and objective information from their embassy, and also protection—if needed.

I think—and I’ve started seeing it happen—having an embassy in Rwanda will result in more Official Development Assistance and will result in more Japanese investment.


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