India-Rwanda relations since Narendra Modi’s visits to Rwanda

By Elina Jonas Ruzindaza
On 27 August 2020 at 07:20

In 2018, India-Rwanda relations were further strengthened when Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his first visit to the Land of a Thousand Hills, which has changed the face of a long-standing partnership between the two countries.

It is a visit that has strengthened the willingness of both countries to strengthen development ties, given that the two countries share much in common, including the pace of sustainable development.

During his visit, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) focusing on sectors such as security, trade, cooperation in increasing milk production, cooperation in boosting leather, agriculture, and culture.

At that time, the Prime Minister of India donated 200 cows to Rwanda, which were given to the people of the Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda. This was a great sign because cows are animals that means a lot in Indian culture as well as in Rwandan culture.

India also donated 100,000 books to Rwanda for the betterment of education. A $ 200 million (Rwf193 billion) agreement will also be signed to help develop irrigation and industrial space.

In an interview with IGIHE, the Indian Ambassador in Rwanda, Oscar Kerketta, said the money has already been increased.

"I am pleased that India’s budget for Rwanda stands at $ 547 million (Rwf528 billion), which will be used in sectors such as electricity, agriculture, irrigation, and technology," he said.

In addition to this money that will help the country in large-scale projects, Rwanda has benefited greatly from the investment of Indian businesses that have long shown a thirst for investment in the Rwandan market. As of 2017, India was the third-largest investor in Rwanda, valued at $ 83.1 million (Rwf 80.3 billion).

According to Oscar Kerketta, "Indian businesses are moving to the Rwandan market due to the country’s economic opportunities, good governance, and how Rwanda is leading the way in facilitating investment."

He explained that there is a lot of potential for productivity between the two countries, as Rwanda can increase the size of its exports to India, as it is still low.

Some of the major Indian companies that have invested in Rwanda include Airtel, Virunga Biotech Ltd, Marasa Holding, Accacia Property Development, Kabuye Sugar Works Sarl, God Steel Rwanda Ltd, Cardiac Specialty Rwanda, Rugabano Tea Company Ltd, Gisovu Tea Company Ltd and more.

As of 2018, Indian projects in Rwanda were valued at $ 389 million, employing 10,175 people in the telecommunications, technology, agriculture, health, and more sectors.

Kerketta told IGIHE that cooperation between the two countries’ trade establishments had begun. It is a partnership called the ’India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program’ aimed at leveraging India’s technology in the development of Rwanda. The project was launched when former Vice President of India Hamid Ansari paid a visit to Rwanda in 2017.

In the first year of the agreement, over 200 Indian companies signed a partnership agreement with over 100 Rwandan companies. It is expected that in the next two years, up to 20 technological ideas and innovations will be implemented.

Business establishments between the two countries have also signed agreements aimed at facilitating cooperation between them.

According to Kerketta, one of the reasons for this is the launch of flights between Kigali and Mumbai, as well as travel by RwandAir.

"These important travels between Rwanda and India have greatly facilitated relations, boosted trade, tourism, and investment. The launch of air freight services between Kigali and Mumbai has reduced the cost of air freight,” he said.

So far, the journey between Kigali and Mumbai only takes six hours.

This positive relationship also led to the rise of a large number of Rwandan students who are going to complete their studies in India, due to the facilitation of travel and the culture of the two regions.

“Every year we see an increase in the number of Rwandan students going to India to complete their courses. This is due to the reasons for the low cost and quality of education in India, the availability of courses in English, the Indian culture of hospitality, the culture of India in general, the ease of issuing visas, and more,” Kerketta said.

He added that the fact the East African Region is home to a large number of Indians creates a cultural sharing, where Rwandans go to India freely.

Also, India has helped many African students get the opportunity to study in their country for free, and many Rwandans have benefited from it.

“I am pleased to say that, taking advantage of this opportunity, many students who have completed their studies in India will now be contributing to the development of Rwanda,” he said.

Kerketta said development cooperation would continue, adding that institutions such as education, capacity building, health, technology, infrastructure, agriculture, and security could be given more attention.

He added that the two countries are concerned about improving their relations, saying that "the key to maintaining relations is in the development of cooperation between India and Rwanda.”

He emphasized that the partnership would be achieved through "support, technical advice, human rights activities, loans to study in India and many other capacity-building programs".

Apart from Rwanda, India has also invested heavily in building a viable relationship with the African continent as a whole.

For example, trade between India and Africa was $ 69 billion last year, while India was ranked fifth in Africa with a high investment of $ 54 billion.

India has a lot in commonalities with Africa, including having a history that goes hand in hand, especially based on colonialism and the shackles of liberation.

He said that relations between India and Africa are developing because “India’s goal is to expand Africa’s opportunities, build capacity, Africa-based partnerships and work together to participate in world events, giving a voice to people of both sides”.

It is in this context that Oscar Kerketta says that India supports the African Common Market Agreement, AfCFTA, and is proud of Rwanda’s role in its implementation.

“The implementation of the AfCFTA agreement is an opportunity to further boost trade between India and Africa. We commend the role of the Government of Rwanda in the implementation of the AfCFTA. ”

Oscar Kerketta also said that India is in the process of launching an Entrepreneurship Development Center, which will be integrated into the Cooperative and Microfinance Institution (RICEM), which will be completed in the next few months.

So far, the journey between Kigali and Mumbai only takes six hours.
Oscar Kerketta said that the cooperation between Rwanda and Indi trade establishments had begun.
India's Ambassador office in Rwanda is located in Nyarutarama in Kigali City
During his visit to Rwanda, Narendra Modi donated 200 cows to Rwanda
In 2018, India-Rwanda relations were further strengthened when Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his first visit to Rwanda
Airtel Rwanda is one of the largest investments made by Indian investors