文｜查尔斯·卡永加（H.E. Mr. Ambassador Charles Kayonga） 卢旺达驻华大使 翻译I宋雪云鹤
Economic Independencein Rwanda and the Role of China-Africa Cooperation
By H.E.Mr. Charles Kayonga,Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to China
In April1994, Rwanda’s long-term political contradiction resulted in the genocide thatclaimed the lives of more than one million Tutsis leaving millions otherstraumatized and poverty stricken. In the preceding thirty years ofindependence, the leaders in Rwanda governed the country based on a genocideideology which alienated one section of the population, the Tutsi denying themrights including often the right to life. The other component of thepopulation, the Hutu and Twa did not fare better. Illiteracy and poverty levelswere high and health indicators were very poor. Overall, in the three decades,instead of freedom and development, the government succeeded in bringing up adivided and illiterate society with high levels of poverty andunderdevelopment. The genocide that occurred in 1994 therefore, was inevitableand a climax of many years of misdirected policies by post-independenceleaders.
The genocide against the Tutsi was a catastrophe. More than a millionTutsi lives were lost and more others were traumatized. Survivors of genocideremained hopeless, men, women or orphans some of who were forced to head homesalso made up of minor siblings. Poverty which was already a problem becameworse. The genocide government after killing Tutsi, decided to herd the entirepopulation out of the country, as a strategy to give the fleeing militarycover, but also to use the refugees as a pool of recruits for future incursionsand to wedge war once again in Rwanda. They also emptied national coffers andfled with the little foreign currency that remained. The effects on the peoplewere far-reaching. The killers were also a burden. They were too many andprisons could not hold all of them. Moreover, they continued to kill survivorsof genocide in effort to eliminate evidence. In all, the country was in a sorrystate and most opinion was that it was a failed State.
Today, 24 years after stopping the genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandahas made a miraculous turn around. It is politically stable and has been rankedas first in Africa and fifth globally where people feel safe walking alone atnight according to 2015 Gallup Global Law and Order Report. Safety is not onlyensured by providing physical security to citizens and residents but it is alsoabout access to health services. Today, epidemics are unheard of in Rwanda andincidence of deaths among young children or women giving births are kept at lowrates. Poverty levels are declining as a result of good governance practicesand inclusive economic development strategies. The government of Rwanda ishighly regarded for its zero-tolerance for corruption and efficiency havingbeen named Africa’s most efficient government by the Global CompetitivenessReport of 2015. According to the Human Development Report 2015, Rwanda was alsoranked the most improved country globally in human development since 1990.
China-Africa Cooperation has been a major factor in the economicdevelopment in many countries on the continent of Africa and it has been amajor factor in the economic progress of Rwanda as well. The relations betweenChina and Rwanda go as far back as 1971 when diplomatic relations wereformalized. The relations were renewed in 1995, when following the liberationof the country and the campaign to stop the genocide, H.E President Kagame madean official visit to China. The President was familiar with China and hadfollowed keenly its evolution and progress following the reforms and opening upunder Deng Xiaoping. During the visit, he met with then President Zhang Zenmin.This was the beginning of a dynamic relationship that has grown from strengthto strength. Since the year 2000, cooperation between the two sides has beenguided by the framework of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) andencompasses the entire range including the political, economic, socialdevelopment, people to people cooperation, peace and security and internationalcooperation.
Political level cooperation is one of the major areas of exchangebetween China and Rwanda. Political exchange is based on shared historicalexperiences and common vision for the future. The two countries were occupiedby foreign forces and were liberated by popular people. They are led byrevolutionary political systems that are founded on principles of freedom andrights for their people and the entire mankind. The Communist Party of Chinaand the Rwanda Patriotic Front are both liberation movements and they pursuegovernance and development as a liberation effort. Governance is conducted asan ongoing campaign this time not only to defeat the reactionary or genocideforces, but also to free their people from poverty and underdevelopment. Chinaand Rwanda continue to promote cooperation on the political level throughexchange of high level visits whether executive, legislative or at Party leveland seek to learn from one another while building mutual trust and strategicorientation.
China’s economic support to Rwanda was a welcomeopportunity in the post genocide reconstruction and recovery and remains animportant pillar for economic independence going forward. Chinese economic andtechnical assistance has been invested in many areas, specifically inagriculture, health and education. Support has been extended to the country’sAgriculture Research Center greatly enhancing the local capacity for researchand development in the field. There is also exchange at expert level wheretechnical experts have made reciprocal visits to agriculture institutionssharing knowledge on agriculture methods and other skills. Investment and tradebetween the two countries has also grown since 2000. Support to education hasinvolved assistance in building schools including vocational schools as well asproviding scholarships to Rwandan students to study in China. Regarding tradefacilitation, China has so far provided duty free arrangements covering manytariff lines although the country is yet to exploit this export opportunity.China has also encouraged tourist to visit Rwanda by listing the country amongthe most preferred destinations to be visited by Chinese citizens. This has ledto increase of Chinese heading to Rwanda for tourism and business as well.
The Chinese policy of going global provides another opportunity forRwanda to advance her industrial policy. Many industries in China seek tomigrate to emerging markets and Rwanda is positioning herself to get a lion’sshare. Moreover, during the March 2017 visit to Beijing by H.E Paul Kagame andhis meeting with President Xi Jinping, both leaders resolved to further deepencooperation between the two countries with Xi Jinping promising to encourageChinese investors to take business to Rwanda. Since then, a number of investorshave initiated contacts with the Rwanda Development Board and the process isprogressive.
The country has continued its reforms in doing business with aim ofmaking it easier. The latest ranking put Rwanda at second world-wide in ease ofbusiness registration. For example in the new reforms, government will beginissuing electronic land titles and also offer simultaneously the occupationalpermits and freehold titles. This is a new measure that coupled with theexisting incentives will likely induce investors seeking to do business inRwanda.
Regional integration developments are additional factors that willensure economic independence for Rwanda and for the whole continent of Africa.Rwanda is a member of all the key regional and international economic and tradearrangements namely: the East African Community which remains one of thefastest growing regions in the world with the registered average growth of 5-6%annually for the past decade, total GDP of $100 billion and a population ofmore than 150 million. Rwanda also belongs to the Common Market for Eastern andSouthern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries(CEPGL), the Commonwealth and the African Union (AU). Regional projects bothpolicy and infrastructures are being initiated with view to reduce tradebarriers, unlock bottle necks and deepen integration. Infrastructure projectsinclude the East African Standard Gauge Railway which will link Mombasa inKenya and Kigali, Rwanda through Uganda and also progress to the DemocraticRepublic of Congo and Burundi. The central corridor railway is planned toconnect Dar-Es-Salaam to Kigali and Burundi. Apart from railways there are alsooil pipelines and electricity grid-lines that will connect the regionalcountries ensuring sufficient supply of electricity and industrial goods.
Nosingle country or region on the continent of Africa, can achieve economicindependence without continental economic integration. This was underscored byH.E Paul Kagame, of Rwanda in January 2018 while delivering acceptance remarksfollowing his election as the rotating Chairperson of the African Union. Whileintegration remains a challenge, however, Africa has solutions in existingprograms, policies and priorities including Agenda 2063, notably the flagshipprojects. But these must leave paper and be put to practice. That is why thereis a drive for mindset change and reform of the continental institutions alsobeing led by President Kagame. To begin with, the President of Rwanda proposesimplementation of the single air transport project, the free movement of peopleon the continent and the continental free trade area projects before the end of2018. He is also advocating for integration of the African digital market whichhe sees as a facilitator of economic integration. Once implemented, accordingto Kagame, these projects would enhance building Africa’s wealth from within.One of the major obstacles to implementation of the AU programs and prioritiesis lack of means. China-African Cooperation offers the ways and means that arenecessary to implement the projects. The ten cooperation plans pledged by H.EXi Jinping were conceived with the AU flagship projects in mind. Money is not aproblem here therefore. The problem has been action beginning with projectprioritization. There is a sense that this is getting in order and once done,Africa will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.