Park Yong-Min, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Rwanda
Park Yong-Min, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Rwanda

South Korean development support is definitely visible in Rwanda. Coming from a state with many similarities, Park Yong-Min, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Rwanda, is proud that one of the largest investments in the country is from Korea Telecom, totalling US$140 million.

European Times: What is the current state of bilateral economic relations between the Republic of Korea and Rwanda?

Park Yong-Min: Rwanda is one of the priority partners for Korea’s government in the field of development cooperation. The trade volume of US$20 million needs to be improved and the investments in ICT, construction, coffee production, animal feed factories and business consultancy give an optimistic outlook for the future. We cooperate and provide support across three main sectors: education, ICT and rural development. Since 2006, the Korean International Cooperation Agency’s program for Rwanda has shifted from volunteer dispatching to strengthening cooperation through various projects and programs, providing an annual average of US$20 million when counted cross-sectionally. Additionally, there are frequent private sector trade delegations. Our aim is to pursue a sincere and open relationship with Rwanda and to significantly contribute to its development and progress.

European Times: Rwanda is one of the most recent countries to be included in Korea’s expanding investment and development programs in Africa. Which sectors are in the focus of Korean investors?

Park Yong-Min: As a strategy for advancing the bilateral relations, we are focused on increasing foreign trade between the two countries. Generally speaking, the areas which interest Korean businessmen in Rwanda overlap with the sectors in which we are also active – mostly rural development and ICT. Rwanda’s government strategy for progress has many similarities with the Korean “New Community” movement, focusing on diligence, self-reliance and cooperation as a basis for development built up from the local level. This contributes to increase the interest of Korean investors and boost the amount of FDI.

European Times: What are Rwanda’s major challenges?

Park Yong-Min: Challenges include lack of adequate infrastructure, high costs of energy, lack of an available skilled workforce and difficulty to raise local financing. Rwanda is a small market and in order to move forward, the Rwandan government should focus on building its middle class and pursue further regional integration in order to make the local market more attractive to foreign businessmen and investors.

European Times: How would you sum up the prospects for future cooperation?

Park Yong-Min: Rwanda is creating a friendly climate for start-ups. The accountability and transparency for which this country is known are great assets and advantages compared with neighbouring countries.

Korea is bound to move towards reunification, and consequently national reintegration and reconciliation. In these aspects we can certainly learn from our Rwandan counterparts who are already successfully undergoing this process.