China has invested $50 million in Rwanda so far this year and Chinese companies are looking at a number of power projects to help the central African country meet its energy needs, a Chinese official said.
Sun Shuzhong, the Chinese ambassador to Rwanda, said in an interview that the landlocked country’s stable political scene, safe reputation and President Paul Kagame’s strong leadership made it an attractive place to invest.
Rwanda acts as a major conduit for mineral re-export from its vast, volatile neighbour Democratic Republic of Congo, where China holds a $6 billion infrastructure-for-minerals contract.
“Rwanda has good governance which is very important for investors,” he said. “They have good conditions for investment, for economic and social progress and China is pushing this progress.”
China’s involvement in Africa has focused on energy and mineral projects to feed its booming economy, bringing criticism from some quarters that Beijing is prepared to deal with countries with poor human rights records in its quest for resources.
Premier Wen Jiabao heads to Egypt next month for a China-Africa summit where the focus will be on investment projects for the next three years. According to state media, China invested $5.49 billion in Africa last year.
“Chinese investment is not only for extracting natural resources but we must have policies for reducing poverty it is very important to explore human resources,” said Shuzhong.
“Developing countries need technology and assistance in management,” he said. “This is cooperation and mutual benefit.”
Bilateral trade rises
The Rwandan government and foreign companies are investing heavily in the country’s nascent mining sector, hitherto dominated by small-scale artisanal mining. The biggest mineral export in 2008 was the tin ore cassiterite.
Rwanda also has sought-after minerals such as coltan and tantalite which are used in consumer electronics, as well as gold deposits in the north which miners are starting to survey.
The small landlocked country’s mineral sector represents its second largest foreign exchange earner after tourism, bringing in $91.3 million in 2008, according to central bank statistics.
Mineral re-exports from neighbouring countries rose to $43.9 million, constituting 17 percent of total exports, up from $30.3 million in 2007.
“This year the bilateral trade is around $100 million and we have enjoyed a good and effective cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, ICT, mining and services,” Shuzhong said. Trade between China and Rwanda was worth $95 million in 2008.
Kagame has fostered strong economic growth in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in which 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died, with gross domestic product rising 11.2 % in 2008.
However, critics call Kagame authoritarian, saying his regime is intolerant of dissent and stifles democratic freedoms.
Shuzhong said China was looking to fund a $200 million conference centre in the capital Kigali, which represents a major part of Rwanda’s ambition to become an information and communications hub, linking east and central Africa.
Shuzhong also said Chinese companies have built 70 % of Rwanda’s roads and are looking into green technologies such as solar energy to help solve its power problems.
“Chinese companies are studying some projects about electricity in Kigali there’s not enough (power),” he said.
Pic: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda