Rwanda has an ambitious plan to exploit the vast natural resources laying beneath its hills and valleys – and President Paul Kagame is very convinced that the country has minerals just like its neighbours.
He said in a major speech Thursday evening that there are clear indicators that the country can massively expand its economy. The long-term solution is there, he said.
“Dig under and you will get hold of the minerals which most reports claim do not exist,” Kagame said at the end of a five-day closed door government retreat.
The 14th National Leadership retreat at the Rwanda Defence Force Combat Training Centre in Gatsibo district had been on since last weekend.
“I have always interacted with former employees of REDEMI and asked them whether Rwanda doesn’t have any resources,” said the president referring to the former state-owned mining and exploration firm.
In the 46-minute speech, Kagame wondered why Rwanda’s neighbours reportedly have platinum, nickel, gold and many other minerals, but not Rwanda.
“Do these minerals stop at Rwanda borders,” he asked, adding: “Science should be used to find the facts so that for once we put an end to speculation and conspiracy theories about Rwanda’s resources.”
In 1989 REDEMI – Régie d’Exploitation et de Développement des Mines (REDEMI), a public company was established to carry on with mining and exploration.
Old reports indicate that from 1930 to 1968, mining production increased from 20% to 42.5% of all foreign exchange earnings of the country. However, between 1969 and 1973, the share of mineral revenues decreased from 42.5% to 21.6% due to a lack of investment.
President Kagame wants to tap into what appears to be unexploited potential. Kagame told the pin-drop-silent audience that Rwanda’s mineral wealth will never be a “resources curse”.
In 2013, Rwanda became the world’s single largest exporter of Coltan (tantalum). The country exported 2,466,025kgs of tantalum – accounting for 28% of total 8,807,232Kg of tantalum produced globally. Total revenue from the Coltan was $134.5M.
“Rwanda has not only enough Coltan but of a very high quality,” President Kagame said later in 2015 his country has abundant Coltan – vital resource needed for production of electronics.
Don’t Settle for Less
For President Kagame, if the mineral resources potential is exploited, the country will stop depending on foreign aid.
“Our biggest problem is allowing others to put us where we do not like, don’t deserve and shouldn’t belong – and we just agree,” he said. “But when you raise up demanding for what you really deserve, they will say; ‘you Rwandans, you Africans belong somewhere’…”
He said that instead of allowing for negotiations of fair trading, “giving us what we need in exchange of what they need, they refuse and say there is already a fund established through which they shall feed you.”
The President said that Africa is always reminded that Europe, United states and other western countries have established several funds to supply food to Africa; “But what they take from us is worth 100 times more than what they bring.”
“Who should we cry to when it is actually us that allow this to happen?,” wondered President Kagame, in a speech delivered with less occasions looking down on the podium, indication he was only speaking from prepared notes, not written speech.
Kagame told the government officials that donors only push for own selfish interests – always using threats.
He said: “Previously, donors would propose to give us aid. They would suggest amounts like $50 million worth of aid to be utilized in one year or two. We thought they would give us hard cash, but instead brought rice or cooking oil. And even when we suggested that we buy rice from local farmers, they insisted that we have to consume rice from their countries.”
Kagame singled out the World Food Programme (WFP) to illustrate. Another agency he named was the US government Millennium Challenge Corporation – MCC. Kagame also said donor funding was used to buy produce from their home producers by using poor countries as readily available market.
“When we complained that we wanted money not rice and cooking oil, they openly threatened that if we didn’t want food and keep asking for money they would even scrap Rwanda off the MCC list.”
Without naming any country, the President said donors use blackmail with threats like: “…first of all there is no press freedom in your country. If you agree to our deal we shall keep quiet.”
“We have to get out of this situation and shouldn’t accept it,” Kagame told the attentive officials.
Before President Kagame ended his unusually long address, he reminded the officials that 23 years ago this country had nothing.
“Where we have reached is not because we had all the necessary capacity but because we multiplied our minimal capacity to achieve more than what we would have achieved.”
“We are not aiming for things that do not exist elsewhere. We are not asking for the impossible. We deserve to lead a dignified life.We should not accept to be relegated to a people who do not deserve to pursue high ambitions and a better life. But how can we blame anyone else for our place in the world when we are the ones who accept it? By not doing what we are supposed to do, we are accepting the dictates of those who tell us to limit our ambitions. Fulfilling your responsibilities should not be seen as extraordinary. Using public resources to serve citizens without corruption is not an exploit. It is your duty. Our past has shown us that a lack of resources does not stop us from achieving. We have to continue with that mentality.”