The relations between Rwanda and South Africa are based on their common history and Liberation Movements in overcoming racism; ethnicity and adversity within their countries. From the beginning, South Africa has shown commitment and cooperation in helping peace-building and reconstructing Rwanda. George Nkosinati Twala, South African High Commissioner to Rwanda, discusses historical connectivity between the two countries and efforts undertaken to create strong economic ties.
European Times: How would you describe the relations between South Africa and Rwanda?
George Nkosinati Twala: Our historical relations were not forged in formal conferences; they were heightened during the transition period and deepened at the time of attaining our independence which, in South Africa’s case, was successfully managed without massive fall-out. This is the period when the first would-be Rwandan Ambassador to South Africa, current Senator Joseph Karamera, alerted the ANC’s leadership of De Klerk’s regime intent for additional arms shipment to the Rwanda regime, which the ANC leadership eventually stopped, thus preventing significant casualties during the genocide that engulfed Rwanda.
From the beginning, the democratic SA government embraced Rwanda’ self-reliant development policy which was based on the fact that its nation will not be built by relying solely on donations. Furthermore, our government initiated trilateral assistance with Cuba to manage the health crisis in Rwanda at the time. In addition, as a form of contributing to capacity building of the country, a support strategy was adopted through which Rwandan students were enabled to study in South Africa without paying fees as foreign students. Today, some of these graduate students contribute their expertise and acquired skills to Rwanda’s government departments and private sector.
European Times: What are some of the projects that the two countries are developing in the near future?
George Nkosinati Twala: We are hoping to assist Rwanda on energy and water projects and to support Rwanda’s construction, engineering and infrastructure development, which will also provide new employment opportunities. We have also taken note in trade movements with Tanzania, Burundi and Kenya.
European Times: What are the specific sectors of interest for South African investors in Rwanda?
George Nkosinati Twala: One of the major investments in Rwanda was done by PPC, a large South African company for cement production, which is crucial for Rwanda’s construction sector. South African investors are also interested in boosting the modernization of Rwanda’s hospitality sector; agriculture sector, providing assistance with the production of potato, irrigation methods and exploring the possibilities of Rwanda exporting beef.
European Times: What is your message to potential investors?
George Nkosinati Twala: Rwanda is Africa’s first most successful post-conflict country and offers opportunities not only to the South African but international investors as well. It has maintained an impressive upward economic trajectory in the past twenty odd years to correct the misconception of failing African leaders. In only 20 years, the country has given a new meaning to the word “planning” by a post-conflict African leadership. In 1998 they began with a million dollar project – the Serena hotel; in 2016 they launched a billion dollar Conference Centre! It might be a small country of 11 million, but it is a home to warm, ambitious and determined people. Be part of an awakening Africa!