President Paul Kagame has triggered a new way of thinking about business in East Africa.
Kagame, who was in Nairobi sharing a state sponsored breakfast with the Kenyan business community, delivered a thought provoking message, saying it was time to ‘think big and beyond ourselves as leaders.”
In a soft tone, Kagame said, “Don’t sit at home and expect God to deliver food at your doorstep.That is why the government provides resources to its citizens,” he said.
Kagame, who is known for his business-friendly personality, said that the business community should start making investments as far and wide as they can.
However, he advised the business community to make right choices and act on them as well.
Kagame has been attending the 16th Summit of EAC Heads of State in Nairobi, where he was later invited by his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, to commission a 140MW at Olkaria 1 Geothermal plant in Naivasha, North West of Nairobi.
Rwanda signed with Kenya to import 30MW, worth $36.4M annually, to be connected to Rwanda’s national grid.
This is one of the many regional deals partner states are engaged in under the East Africa Community (EAC) integration mindset.
During the round-table breakfast, Kagame said, “Integration in the region should not be limited to markets; it should cut across all areas.”
With the integration, partner states are widening their economy and accessing bigger markets.
Rwanda’s exports to EAC increased by 7.0% last year, from $124.94M to $131.56M despite the landlocked country struggling with an acute trade deficit having increased by 5.5 % ( $415M) in 2014 compared to $393M in 2013.
Kagame has pushed for regional integration to connect land-locked Rwanda to East Africa’s port of Mombasa in Kenya.
Last year, he joined other EAC heads of states to launch the $13.8billion rail project, the largest local infrastructure deal set to link the port of Mombasa and extend to neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.
Rwanda believes the railway line could open up business for Rwandans to the region, and reduce transport costs.
The railway line is expected to boost trade and economic integration in EAC and beyond.
Rwanda and Kenya are strong economic partners. Kenya is Rwanda’s main export destination, accounting for 53.9%, exporting mainly tea and coffee worth US$96.6M annually, according to Rwanda Institute of Statistics.
Meanwhile, Rwanda remains Kenya’s investment hot-spot due to conducive business policies and good leadership.
According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB), more than 50 Kenyan investors have invested about $500M in Rwanda, facilitating the government to mobilise close to a billion dollar from external sources over the last 15 years.