In an interview with Daily Sabah, Rwandan Ambassador to Turkey Williams Nkurunziza underlined the importance of rapidly improving bilateral relations and stated that Rwanda has great opportunities to offer Turkish investors.
Daily Sabah: What makes Rwanda and Turkey important to each other?
Williams Nkurunziza: Both our presidents, his excellency Paul Kagame of Rwanda and his excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, attach a premium to our bilateral relationship. This is informed by the fact that we both share the same values and aspirations for creating democratic institutions for the benefit of our peoples. We equally share a firm commitment to global peace, human dignity and the integrity of national sovereignty. Internationally, we hold similar positions and voice similar sentiments on issues like climate change, the threat of terrorism, the inequity in the international multilateral system and the burden of perennial poverty that continues to afflict billions of people around the world, including many in our own communities.
DS: In what fields do you think the two countries can further their relations?
W.N.: Turkey-Rwanda bilateral relations are strong and both their diplomatic positions are aligned on most key international issues. Equally, our security and commercial engagements are designed to mutually advance our people’s aspirations for peace and prosperity. So far, we have signed cooperation arrangements in the areas of defense, security, education, foreign affairs and immigration. We are working on expanding our cooperation in the areas of economy, industry, agriculture, finance, ICT and infrastructure development.
My mission will also work on promoting greater people-to-people contacts and collaboration, especially in the area of trade and investment. We admire the phenomenal growth and economic transformation Turkey has enjoyed over the last two decades, especially in the industrial production areas of textile, leather, energy, infrastructure, housing, agro-processing, automotive and electrical and electronic engineering. There is a lot Turkey can share and do with Rwanda in the areas of technology, trade and investment. Indeed, we believe that Turkish enterprise would benefit from expanding their geographical space by coming into our market to trade in goods or services as well as to invest.
DS: In Africa, there are Turkish companies, but they may be trailing Chinese and/or American companies. What does Rwanda offer to Turkish investors?
Turkey is a new entrant in Sub-Saharan Africa and like the saying goes, many of its companies are still testing the depth of the water with one foot. To Turkish investors, Rwanda offers a virgin market overflowing with investment and trade opportunities, a secure, clean and corruption-free environment to operate in and an intensely pro-business government to protect their rights as investors. Your readers should be pleased to know that the World Bank Doing Business Report released last week ranked Rwanda the second best place to do business in Africa and the 52nd best globally. While it has been growing at around 8 percent over the last decade, it still craves more investments in the various sectors of the economy such as energy, infrastructure, mass housing, hotel development, large-scale farming, agro-processing and general manufacturing. These are sectors in which Turkish firms hold significant experience, technical expertise and could become critical players as long-term investors.
For example, Turkey is strong in the power sector. Opportunities in our energy sector point at the need to generate over 500 megawatts by 2018 using our methane gas, hydro and peat resources as well as our geothermal and solar potential. The government offers upfront power purchase agreements to discerning private developers in the energy space. To meet this demand requires an injection of over $2 billion in private capital. We also have a shortfall in housing, estimated at around 563,000 housing units. To fix this deficit would require an investment of over $30 billion. The good thing is that there is a significant appetite in the market and off-take mechanisms for such developments by private investors are available. Opportunities in other sectors are many and equally attractive.
Besides investments, Rwanda also offers to Turkish exporters the best launchpad into the densely populated central African region. We sit at the crossroads of commerce as we share boarders with four countries - Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, DR Congo to the west and Burundi to the south. This gives Rwanda an immediate surrounding area of over 80 million people easily reachable by road. If Turkish exporters are looking for the best location for a redistribution center for their goods and services, look no further than Kigali, our capital.
DS: In what ways do you think Turkey can contribute to peace in the continent?
Turkey can contribute to peace in Africa by continuing to be a true friend, supporting indigenous democratic processes and peacekeeping efforts as well as investing in Africa’s industrial transformation agenda. Creating greater opportunity through economic expansion eliminates the desperation usually exploited by bad politicians to foment discontent and political instability.
DS: What does the Rwandan government think about Turkey’s struggle against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and is there any change in the status of the FETÖ school in Kigali?
Rwanda believes Turkey has the sovereign right to determine how it handles forces that threaten its democratic institutions, its peace, security and way of life. And Turkey can count on Rwanda’s solidarity in this regard. The school in Kigali is still a matter of discussion between the two governments.