Why Greece mulls Rwanda as gateway for strengthened cooperation with Africa

On 6 November 2021 at 01:35

Located in the South-East of Europe, Greece is renowned for significant impact to human development considering scientific discoveries and the contribution of its famous philosophers including Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Pythagoras to the conceptualization of different theories in the areas of democracy, social justice among others that have shaped and inspired the society.

The country which once underwent serious economic downfall, is currently seeking to be back on its feet working with Rwanda as a gateway to restore global influence through cooperation with the African continent.

It was revealed on Friday 5th November 2021 by Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias on his visit to Rwanda after holding talks with his counterpart of Rwanda, Dr. Vincent Biruta.

During their discussions, Dendias and Dr. Biruta signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in Political Consultations that will allow both countries to discuss prospects for deepening bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interests including trade and investment, tourism, education and agriculture among others.

Rwanda and Greece also signed a MoU on cooperation in the field of diplomatic training to reinforce the collaboration between respective ministries of foreign affairs.

His visit coincided with the donation of 332,800 AstraZeneca doses of COVID-19 shipped to Rwanda on Friday 5th November 2021, an addition to more 200,000 doses secured from the country early September this year.

Minister Biruta said that the visit of his counterpart resulted from both countries’ commitment to strengthen engagements at bilateral and multilateral levels.

He also told the media that discussions with Dendias focused on exploring available investment opportunities.

“We have discussed and took them through available investment opportunities where they expressed willingness to cooperate with us to promote trade and investment particularly in tourism sector,” he said.

“The visit is a significant milestone in promoting bilateral relations in different areas drawing emphasis on trade and investment,” added Biruta.

Greece is among developed countries with its GDP per capita estimated at US$19,827 (over Rwf19 million).

The country’s economy heavily relies on services which account or 80% of GDP with tourism as the main contributor.

Greece is ranked the 7th country attracting a large number of tourists on the European continent and the 16th tourist destination globally.

Rwanda as gateway for deepened ties with Africa

Greece has not been actively involved in global investments mainly due to economic crisis the country has undergone since 2008, when details emerged that it had heavy, outstanding debts.

The Greek debt crisis was the dangerous amount of sovereign debt Greece owed the European Union between 2008 and 2018. In 2010, Greece said it might default on its debt, threatening the viability of the eurozone itself.

To avoid default, the EU loaned Greece enough to continue making payments.

Since the debt crisis began in 2010, the various European authorities and private investors have loaned Greece nearly 320 billion euros.

It was the biggest financial rescue of a bankrupt country in history.

As of January 2019, Greece had only repaid 41.6 billion euros. It has scheduled debt payments beyond 2060.

In return for the loan, the EU required Greece to adopt austerity measures. The country minimized expenses to get out of the situation, high taxes and repeatedly slashed salaries and pensions. The country has adopted national economic recovery plan that saw debts decreased, restored economy that it is currently on the path to normalcy.

Dendias has explained that Greece is back for international cooperation starting with Africa and a continent with promising economy.

“The latest bilateral agreement between our two countries was signed 35 years ago. To be open, we didn’t implement and this is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“We have decided that we want to enhance our relations with African countries, because, among others, Africa will be the economic powerhouse of the world. Some of the fastest growing economies are located in this beautiful continent,” added Dendias.

He explained that Greece found it necessary to cooperate with Rwanda as the right gateway to penetrate on the continent considering the country’s remarkable progress following the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

“We, Greece, have no colonial past and by extension we do not carry any historic baggage. Also, thousands of my compatriots Greeks have emigrated to Africa and they have created thriving Greek Communities around the continent. For us, the gate to Africa should be Rwanda. Rwanda has recovered from one of the worst genocides in human history; a genocide that is within living memory of many of us. Rwanda has set an international standard for reconciliation, reconstruction and national unity. You have clearly set a benchmark,” revealed Dendias.

The annual World Bank’s Doing Business Report places Rwanda among the best African destinations for doing business and a fast-growing economy.

Dendias emphasized that it is an advantage to cooperate with such a country with favorable business environment.

He also stressed the need to fast track MoUs signed between both countries enhanced cooperation with countries that share the same principles and the same values ‘especially the belief that International Law should be the norm in relations between countries’.

After holding talks with Minister Biruta, Dendias visited Kigali Genocide Memorial where he paid tribute to victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi laid there.

Among others, Dendias and his delegation also met with President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro where they held talks revolving around strengthening bilateral cooperation between Rwanda and Greece, regional issues as well as the Africa-EU relationship.

He also held discussions with officials from different public institutions including Rwanda Governance Board.

Rwanda and Greece enjoy existing relations in different areas. In July 2021, Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Jean Bosco Kazura visited Athens, the capital of Greece to strengthen cooperation.

He was welcomed by Gen Konstantinos Floros, Chief of Defence Staff of the Greek Defence Force.

In 2018, both countries signed air service agreement.

Minister Biruta and his counterpart of Greece exchanging documents after signing MoUs.
Rwanda and Greece have recommitted to strengthen cooperation.