India-Rwanda Strong Alliance; Strategic Partnership

ByH.E. Prof. Dr. Ambassador Tal Edgars*

India-Rwanda Strong Alliance

In recent years, bilateral relations between India and Rwanda have grown steadily. In 1999, Rwanda opened its first mission in New Delhi and in 2001, the nation sent it’s first resident Ambassador to India.

Since then a series of high-level visits from India and Rwanda have taken place. However, the most significant development in India-Rwanda relations is certainly marked by the Indian Prime Minister’s visit last year in 2018; with this event, Prime Minister Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to ever visit Rwanda. During his trip, he announced US$ 200 million in aid and 200 cows to the families of genocide survivors.

Rwanda values the strong strategic partnership with India, which has served as a foundation for a number of bilateral cooperation programs and projects. In July 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian Premier to ever visit Rwanda, a visit many hold as memorable referring to the Indian Premier’s 200 cows donation to inhabitants of Rweru Village, as a contribution to the ‘Girinka’ program last year.

The ‘Girinka’ program is a social protection scheme, where the poorest families are gifted dairy cows by the government, and the first female calf born to the cow is gifted to a neighbour to promote not only economic solidarity, but also brotherhood and consideration. The value of such a gift from a culture where cows have a special significance – can only take its whole meaning in another culture – that holds cows in the same high regard.

Although the volume of bilateral trade is small, Indian companies have made inroads into the Rwandan market in areas like infrastructure, information and communications technology (ICT), agriculture, healthcare and education. Given that Rwanda is seen as a good country for investment, especially when compared to other African countries, there is substantial scope for more trade. The country is often noted for its good governance, political will, zero tolerance for corruption, and ease of doing business; for instance, it takes only a few hours to register a business in Rwanda. In fact, investors do not even need to visit the country for the necessary registration formalities because businesses can be registered online. Moreover, safety and security in the country is second to none, making Rwanda the preferred investment destination in Africa.

In addition to the good bilateral relations, trade and investments between India and Rwanda have experienced positive growth trajectory with more than $600 million worth of investments and 142 companies registered. Major investments from India to Rwanda are in the manufacturing sector which have attracted the highest amount of investment with $203 million registered in the last decade; followed by Information and communication sector with $128 million.

Agriculture also drives an important part of Indian investment in Africa. Nearly 80 Indian companies have invested about US$2.5 billion in Africa’s agricultural. India has become the 5th largest investor in Africa and a major trading partner. India and Rwanda have agreed to raise the level of bilateral cooperation to a strategic partnership and India extended a $120 million credit to bring over 41,190 hectares of cultivable land under irrigation in Rwanda. India’s Line of Credit to Rwanda and the development of Export Targeted Irrigated Agriculture Project and its expansion would bring irrigation facilities to more than 41,190 hectares of cultivable land.

Rwanda has signed the instrument and became the 25th co-signatory to the International Solar Alliance, an Indian initiative. Rwanda is a beneficiary of the solar electrification of 35 schools in rural Rwanda under a grant from government of India as an example of South-South cooperation.

India’s assistance in augmenting Rwanda’s electricity production with the commissioning of the 28 MW Hydroelectric Project on the Nyabarongo River under a line of credit of $80 million which has further been extended to India’s readiness to support phase II of the Nyabarongo power project, Technical and Vocational Training Centres (TVET) and Huye-Kibeho road project.

Rwanda’s defence forces are trained in various Indian Army training institutions under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) initiative. India and Rwanda have exchanged the Memorandum of Understanding on Forensic Sciences by the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University to support Rwanda’s National Police in modernising Forensic investigations.

Both sides are adamant to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in culture, tourism, and people to people link between the youth of Rwanda and India. India has shown great consideration by opening a resident mission in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. The Indian Mission in Kigali is likely to play an important role in facilitating trade and investment links between the two countries which is currently very small.

The key areas where India and Rwanda can collaborate are agriculture, information and communication technology, healthcare, and tourism. Since Rwanda is primairly an agricultural country, opportunities for Indian companies are immense. Jain Irrigation -- India’s largest micro irrigation company -- is already executing a number of projects in Rwanda, and has selected Rwanda as its hub in Africa. In the case of ICT, Indian companies can play a major role in Rwanda, sine they already have an edge over other nations in this sector. Moreover, many engineers are already working with the Rwandan government and the private sector. Several Rwandan students also go to India to study at Indian universities and a number of Indian professors teach in Rwandan universities. In addition to agriculture and ICT, the healthcare sector offers many opportunities for collaboration. India’s ability to provide excellent medical facilities at affordable prices can also be capitalized upon: Some of India’s best super-speciality hospital chains like Apollo and Fortis are already providing medical services to Rwandan patients, but there is considerable scope for scaling up. Furthermore, small teams of Indian specialists visit Rwanda regularly to conduct medical camps which offer consultations and medical advice at affordable prices. Young Rwandans also come to India for medical training, but again, there is scope to seriously scale this opportunity.

The three key areas where India and Rwanda can collaborate are agriculture, information and communication technology, healthcare, and tourism. Since Rwanda is primairly an agricultural country, opportunities for Indian companies are immense. Finally, while Rwanda is known as ‘the land of a thousand hills,’ tourism is underdeveloped, although it provides the highest source of foreign exchange in the country. One of the main reasons for visiting the country is its incredibly rich wildlife: Rwanda is home to the famous mountain gorilla, which is now an endangered species.

Rwanda has benefitted from the number of Indian tourists to the country, which is steadily growing. Visiting the country has become easier for Indians with RwandAir offering direct flights between Kigali and Mumbai four times a week. Visas are also easily available on arrival at the Kigali International airport for Indian citizens and the number of quality hotels has also increased sharply in Kigali in recent years.

In order to increase the flow of Indian tourists to Rwanda, tour operators in Rwanda need to offer special affordable packages for Indian families. For example, the customised mountain gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda are a one-of-a-kind experience, but the cost of such trips may be prohibitive for the majority of Indian families since the Rwandan Development Board has recently doubled the cost of a single permit from US$ 750 to US$ 1500. On the other hand, for Rwandans, India remains a good option for medical tourism. In a nutshell, if the two countries worked out a system of exchange, a long-term, symbiotic relationship could be formed between them.

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