Prime Minister to introduce guide; UNCTAD says nation should appeal to investors in agriculture, tourism, information technology, other sectors
An UNCTAD/International Chamber of Commerce Investment Guide to Rwanda, to be introduced today in Geneva by the country´s Prime Minister says Rwanda´s tragic past is well behind it -- except that the persistent image of events 12 years ago is keeping potential foreign investors from noticing the major opportunities the country offers.
Rwanda has a stable government, a peaceful territory, low levels of crime and corruption, development-oriented policies, a business-friendly attitude, and a mild and pleasant climate, the study notes. There is a fertile environment for business growth: currently Rwanda imports just about everything, and domestic suppliers, if established, would find strong demand and little local competition.
The guide notes that the potential for agricultural production in coffee, tea, horticulture, floriculture, and herbal products has barely been tapped. Rwanda´s scenic beauty and the unique mountain gorillas in the national park at Virunga mean there is a large upside to the tourism business as well. Although tourism numbers remain low -- mainly because of the country´s misleading image as an unsafe place -- tourism receipts have been climbing recently and there are opportunities for establishing hotels and lodges, entertainment facilities, restaurants, tour operations, and tourism training services.
The Government has focused on attracting investors in information and communication technology (ICT) and is setting up a TechnoPark near the capital, Kigali. Although telecom and computer penetration in the country is scant, that situation is changing, and the Government has embarked on a programme to computerize services. One firm already established there, The Electronic Tools Company of the United States, reports that it has a bright view of its future prospects.
The Guide follows completion of an UNCTAD Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Rwanda. The IPR was discussed during UNCTAD´s Trade and Development Board session on 3 September, with the participation of Prime Minister Makuza. The Review´s recommendations will help Rwanda further strengthen its investment climate and increase its attractiveness as an investment location in East Africa. Like the Guide, the review notes that the country´s enduring international profile as the site of the 1994 genocide is obscuring its current peaceful state, ambitious policy reforms, good governance, low level of corruption, and the potentials of its temperate climate and ambitious population.
Both publications, developed after extensive research and interviews with government officials, business owners, the country´s investment promotion agency, and civil society groups, note that supply and dependability of electricity generation remain a problem in Rwanda. The Review suggests that Rwanda build upon its strong governance and turn the country into a regional centre of excellence in "soft assets", among other things by continuing to improve its network of laws and regulations to create a "seamless", well-regulated business environment for international and domestic investment. The policy review also says the Government should ensure that business regulations protect the public and national interests and that it should aim at "high impact" and "quality" investment that can expand employment and have other long-term benefits.
The Investment Guide to Rwanda is the twelfth in an UNCTAD series which provides information on investment opportunities, operating conditions, private-sector perceptions, and current foreign investors in African and Asian countries and regions. Other guides have been published on Bangladesh, Cambodia, the East African Community, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
To date UNCTAD has carried out investment policies reviews for Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and Uzbekistan. IPRs help countries improve policies and institutions that deal with foreign direct investment. The intent is to increase their capacity to attract and benefit from such investment.
Vincent Karega, Minister of State in charge of Industry and Investment Promotion, introduced the Guide at a press conference given at noon at the Palais des Nations (Room III), following the initialing of a bilateral treaty between Rwanda and Belgium.