文I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 Independence in Rwanda and the Role of China-Africa Cooperation
By H.E. Mr. Charles Kayonga, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to China
n April 1994, Rwanda’s long-term political contradiction resulted in the genocide that claimed the lives of more than one million Tutsis leaving millions others traumatized and poverty stricken. In the preceding thirty years of independence, the leaders in Rwanda governed the country based on a genocide ideology which alienated one section of the population, the Tutsi denying them rights including often the right to life. The other component of the population, the Hutu and Twa did not fare better. Illiteracy and poverty levels were high and health indicators were very poor. Overall, in the three decades, instead of freedom and development, the government succeeded in bringing up a divided and illiterate society with high levels of poverty and underdevelopment. The genocide that occurred in 1994 therefore, was inevitable and a climax of many years of misdirected policies by post-independence leaders.
The genocide against the Tutsi was a catastrophe. More than a million Tutsi lives were lost and more others were traumatized. Survivors of genocide remained hopeless, men, women or orphans some of who were forced to head homes also made up of minor siblings. Poverty which was already a problem became worse. The genocide government after killing Tutsi, decided to herd the entire population out of the country, as a strategy to give the fleeing military cover, but also to use the refugees as a pool of recruits for future incursions and to wedge war once again in Rwanda. They also emptied national coffers and fled with the little foreign currency that remained. The effects on the people were far-reaching. The killers were also a burden. They were too many and prisons could not hold all of them. Moreover, they continued to kill survivors of genocide in effort to eliminate evidence. In all, the country was in a sorry state and most opinion was that it was a failed State.
Today, 24 years after stopping the genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has made a miraculous turn around. It is politically stable and has been ranked as first in Africa and fifth globally where people feel safe walking alone at night according to 2015 Gallup Global Law and Order Report. Safety is not only ensured by providing physical security to citizens and residents but it is also about access to health services. Today, epidemics are unheard of in Rwanda and incidence of deaths among young children or women giving births are kept at low rates. Poverty levels are declining as a result of good governance practices and inclusive economic development strategies. The government of Rwanda is highly regarded for its zero-tolerance for corruption and efficiency having been named Africa’s most efficient government by the Global Competitiveness Report of 2015. According to the Human Development Report 2015, Rwanda was also ranked the most improved country globally in human development since 1990.
China-Africa Cooperation has been a major factor in the economic development in many countries on the continent of Africa and it has been a major factor in the economic progress of Rwanda as well. The relations between China and Rwanda go as far back as 1971 when diplomatic relations were formalized. The relations were renewed in 1995, when following the liberation of the country and the campaign to stop the genocide, H.E President Kagame made an official visit to China. The President was familiar with China and had followed keenly its evolution and progress following the reforms and opening up under Deng Xiaoping. During the visit, he met with then President Zhang Zenmin. This was the beginning of a dynamic relationship that has grown from strength to strength. Since the year 2000, cooperation between the two sides has been guided by the framework of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and encompasses the entire range including the political, economic, social development, people to people cooperation, peace and security and international cooperation.
Political level cooperation is one of the major areas of exchange between China and Rwanda. Political exchange is based on shared historical experiences and common vision for the future. The two countries were occupied by foreign forces and were liberated by popular people. They are led by revolutionary political systems that are founded on principles of freedom and rights for their people and the entire mankind. The Communist Party of China and the Rwanda Patriotic Front are both liberation movements and they pursue governance and development as a liberation effort. Governance is conducted as an ongoing campaign this time not only to defeat the reactionary or genocide forces, but also to free their people from poverty and underdevelopment. China and Rwanda continue to promote cooperation on the political level through exchange of high level visits whether executive, legislative or at Party level and seek to learn from one another while building mutual trust and strategic orientation.
China’s economic support to Rwanda was a welcome opportunity in the post genocide reconstruction and recovery and remains an important pillar for economic independence going forward. Chinese economic and technical assistance has been invested in many areas, specifically in agriculture, health and education. Support has been extended to the country’s Agriculture Research Center greatly enhancing the local capacity for research and development in the field. There is also exchange at expert level where technical experts have made reciprocal visits to agriculture institutions sharing knowledge on agriculture methods and other skills. Investment and trade between the two countries has also grown since 2000. Support to education has involved assistance in building schools including vocational schools as well as providing scholarships to Rwandan students to study in China. Regarding trade facilitation, China has so far provided duty free arrangements covering many tariff lines although the country is yet to exploit this export opportunity. China has also encouraged tourist to visit Rwanda by listing the country among the most preferred destinations to be visited by Chinese citizens. This has led to increase of Chinese heading to Rwanda for tourism and business as well.
The Chinese policy of going global provides another opportunity for Rwanda to advance her industrial policy. Many industries in China seek to migrate to emerging markets and Rwanda is positioning herself to get a lion’s share. Moreover, during the March 2017 visit to Beijing by H.E Paul Kagame and his meeting with President Xi Jinping, both leaders resolved to further deepen cooperation between the two countries with Xi Jinping promising to encourage Chinese investors to take business to Rwanda. Since then, a number of investors have initiated contacts with the Rwanda Development Board and the process is progressive.
The country has continued its reforms in doing business with aim of making it easier. The latest ranking put Rwanda at second world-wide in ease of business registration. For example in the new reforms, government will begin issuing electronic land titles and also offer simultaneously the occupational permits and freehold titles. This is a new measure that coupled with the existing incentives will likely induce investors seeking to do business in Rwanda.
Regional integration developments are additional factors that will ensure economic independence for Rwanda and for the whole continent of Africa. Rwanda is a member of all the key regional and international economic and trade arrangements namely: the East African Community which remains one of the fastest 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 of more than 150 million. Rwanda also belongs to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL), the Commonwealth and the African Union (AU). Regional projects both policy and infrastructures are being initiated with view to reduce trade barriers, unlock bottle necks and deepen integration. Infrastructure projects include the East African Standard Gauge Railway which will link Mombasa in Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda through Uganda and also progress to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The central corridor railway is planned to connect Dar-Es-Salaam to Kigali and Burundi. Apart from railways there are also oil pipelines and electricity grid-lines that will connect the regional countries ensuring sufficient supply of electricity and industrial goods.
No single country or region on the continent of Africa, can achieve economic independence without continental economic integration. This was underscored by H.E Paul Kagame, of Rwanda in January 2018 while delivering acceptance remarks following his election as the rotating Chairperson of the African Union. While integration remains a challenge, however, Africa has solutions in existing programs, policies and priorities including Agenda 2063, notably the flagship projects. But these must leave paper and be put to practice. That is why there is a drive for mindset change and reform of the continental institutions also being led by President Kagame. To begin with, the President of Rwanda proposes implementation of the single air transport project, the free movement of people on the continent and the continental free trade area projects before the end of 2018. He is also advocating for integration of the African digital market which he sees as a facilitator of economic integration. Once implemented, according to Kagame, these projects would enhance building Africa’s wealth from within. One of the major obstacles to implementation of the AU programs and priorities is lack of means. China-African Cooperation offers the ways and means that are necessary to implement the projects. The ten cooperation plans pledged by H.E Xi Jinping were conceived with the AU flagship projects in mind. Money is not a problem here therefore. The problem has been action beginning with project prioritization. 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.