The visiting UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Ms. Emma Wade-OBE has revealed that her country’s direct trade investment in the country is worth about £200 million (slightly over Rwf 230billion) and growing.
Speaking exclusively to The Chronicles, she stated: “Currently, we run 200 million pounds (about Rwf 230billion) which puts us in the second place” among direct foreign investors in the country and “working to do more and to see the investment flow increase into Rwanda”.
The Chronicles’ Samuel Baker BYANSI spoke to Ms. Emma Wade-Smith OBE alongside the UK High Commissioner in Kigali, Ms. Jo Lomas. They spelled out the UK position on the Rwanda-Uganda Conflict and on a wide range of other regional and continental issues. Below are excerpts:
Broadly, how do you characterize UK’s trade relations with Africa and Rwanda in Particular?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: Specifically we are the second largest foreign investor here [in Rwanda] at the moment and there is a decent trade relationship and we are looking to continue to grow. So lots of work that we have all across the continent in terms of… ensuring continuity of trading arrangements as the UK leaves the European Union, and looking at improving the business environment to make it easier for UK investors, for UK exporters to come to Rwanda, to come to any other country in Africa, and doing more business.
How big is UK’S trade with Africa?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: The latest statistics shows that it has been growing year on year and it is currently over 32 billion pounds. That is the trading relationship in goods and services between the continent of Africa and the UK.
How big, in terms of volume and revenue is UK’s trade with Rwanda?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: Its good but we are confident that we can do better and that is part of [the] reason for my visit…to work with the High Commissioner here, to understand the business opportunities, to grow with the investments flow into Rwanda. Currently, we run 200 million pounds (about Rwf 230billion) which puts us in the second place…, working to do more and to see the investment flow increase into Rwanda.
In which areas is UK investing in most in Rwanda and Africa?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: …traditionally, some of our investments flow back for decades and they have been in areas like oil and gas, in mining, some in agriculture. So those are the quite traditional areas…of the economy. And what we have been seeing recently is a diversification of the investments. We have got some of our biggest companies like Unilever that are established here in Rwanda and many other parts of Africa…we have got in retail, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. The same in renewable, and increasingly financial services, health care, education skills and technology.
You have attended the opening session of Africa CEO Forum, what are your Impressions?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: I think it is really impressive. I got to quite [a] few big conferences around UK and in Africa, I think it is an impressive turn up, 1,800 business people and government leaders – all are here to look at how we can support great integration in Africa and for the great flows of trade and investments here… incredibly well attended and very well organized and structured. I think here the story for Africa is all around integration and that’s the key thing for this forum; how do we help improve the flow of goods and service across national borders and to increase economic growth, job creation and really support the investment flows.
In his opening remarks President Kagame talked about the importance of the Africa continental free trade area (AfCFTA), what are the chances that it will succeed?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: What’s really impressive actually is [that they are on the way to] having the necessary 22 countries that signed and ratified the agreement for continental free trade area which will then unlock the opportunities to create support structures which will drive this project faster and forever….that demonstrates real strong political will across many countries. It’s really important in driving economic growth and helping create inclusive economic growth that everybody is aspiring to have.
Some observers say AfCFTA might not succeed due to political conflicts like the one between Uganda and Rwanda, wars on the continent and ultra-nationalism. What is your view?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: I think that to achieve this grand project requires strong political will and that takes time to generate. I think what we have seen with the President here in Rwanda is a strong commitment to this kind of integration project. We have seen it through his leadership of the African Union and continuing to dig out. So I think it takes political will across the whole continent to achieve the full scale of the ambition… the price is definitely worthy when you look at the extent to which the integration will increase the economic growth rate, that increases job creation, support inclusive growth, will drive investments flows, and all of this is really significant and even more important into the African trade flows which everybody knows that it is much here in Africa than any other region in the world. So I feel the African free continental trade area is a big prize…what I would like to say is continue efforts in existing regional arrangements too and supporting the work of East African Community, ECOWAS, the SADC region – to keep reducing tariff barriers, to keep addressing non-tariff barriers to gradually get to the stage where this continent has a free trade area.
President Kagame also talked about the conflict with Uganda and how Uganda is sabotaging its trade. What did you make of that?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: Am concerned about the current tensions between Rwanda and Uganda but we are convinced that it is possible to overcome this and we think it is in any one’s interest to get that trading relationship back on track.
In 1999 and 2000 when Rwanda and Uganda fought in Kisangani, DRC, UK mediated. Will the UK help mediate this time as well?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: We are happy to offer support if needed but actually we think that the solution is here in the region. So, that would be our position now supporting whatever regional mediation might be necessary on my help.
Does UK have a formal position on Rwanda-Uganda conflict?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: As I said, it is in everybody’s interest – be it Ugandans or Rwandans, to ensure that there is a strong relationship on every level; people level, trade level, political level – and we hope that the relationship between both counties will be improving eventually.
Rwanda applied to join OECD, will UK support her?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: What I can say is that UK supports Rwanda’s ambition to be a member of OECD and we are actively supporting Rwanda economic growth.
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi is here, did you meet and talk to him?
Trade Envoy Emma Wade-Smith OBE: Yes, he was in the Forum’s opening ceremony, so we were in the room but it was a very big room.
What is the UK policy on DRC?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: We know that there are huge opportunities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and our focus is finding the right way to realize the exact opportunities – whether it’s in mining or other things. So we have a team on [the] ground that are supposed to strengthen the relationship between UK and DRC. We know that as with every country, trade investments is really important. We are looking at how best we can stretch it out.
UK’s Plan to withdraw from the European Union has become contentious. Will UK be able to finally withdrawal?
Emma Wade-Smith OBE: The Prime Minister has been very clear on many occasions and she believes she has the best deal possible to enable her to withdraw from the European Union – and she is working hard to get the support from the parliament that is required to endorse that deal. So there is a lot of politics going on in the UK around this and there is a motive issue. We are waiting to see how politics allows to play around it.
If UK withdrawals from the EU, how will that affect the trade relations with Rwanda and Africa.
I don’t think this can affect anything in the line of trade, sure it won’t.
What is the UK doing to contribute to peace in Burundi?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: Basically we believe that there are still human rights abuses still carried out in that country. We would like the government of Burundi to continue to engage in the regional dialogue – to work out how the political space could be open a head of the elections in 2020.
Will the fugitives of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis who still live in UK be arrested and repatriated?
High Commissioner Jo Lomas: The Metropolitan Police have announced they are all conducting investigations into the five allege genocide perpetrators who are currently residing in UK. However, UK prosecutions and investigations can take some time….there is a continuous investigation that is going on and we are working with the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Justice to honestly see the perpetrators brought to justice.