The current population of Rwanda is 12,610,262 based on the latest United Nations estimates. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Rwanda was worth 7,622 billion USD (2013), 8,017 billion USD (2014), 8,278 billion USD (2015), 8,476 billion USD (2016), 9.14 billion US dollars in 2017 which rose by 10.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018.
Recently, on the 12th of November 2018, China and Rwanda celebrated a 47 year long fruitful bilateral cooperation and trade which dates back to 1971, a decade after Rwandese independence from Belgium. From its inception, this relationship yielded various initiatives bilaterally between China and Rwanda. These include developments and aid in education, health, culture and economic sectors among others. During the cause of these four decades, China evidently proved to be a committed partner and friend to Rwandese development and reconstruction especially after the 1994 genocide.
History of diplomatic relations
China and Rwanda established diplomatic relations on November 12, 1971and since then the friendly cooperation saw a favourable development between the two countries. This was then rubber stamped with a Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Rwanda. In accordance with the interests and wishes of the two countries the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Rwanda decided to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level as on November 12, 1971. The government of the People’s Republic of China firmly supports the government of the Republic of Rwanda in fighting against the neo-colonialism, maintaining national independence and sovereignty, and the government in carrying out policy of peaceful cooperation among the peoples of various countries.
China and Rwanda signed a number of cooperation documents covering such areas as investment, finance, e-commerce and law enforcement. In November 2018 during President Xi Jinping’s state visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to the African country China remains one of Rwanda’s development partner through a number of projects ranging from governance, infrastructure, cultural and security, among others In July this year, President Xi Jinping of China visited Rwanda where fifteen bilateral agreements between the Republic of Rwanda and The People’s Republic of China were signed.
The agreements covered a range of sectors including an agreement on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic and service passport holders, as well as those related to infrastructure development, Civil Air transport, e-Commerce, culture and scientific cooperation and human capacity development among others. Most prominently was a bankable deal to finance construction of a 14km Highway that will connect Kigali to Bugesera International Airport.
According to Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda Rao Hongwei, the new highway which will cost $54 million upon completion will be built in partnership with People’s Republic of China. In education sector, a number of Rwandan students have also been sent to study specialized courses in China. For instance, in August 2018, the People’s Republic of China awarded scholarships to 12 Rwandan students who are expected to acquire skills the country needs most to develop further. China and Rwanda have maintained good coordination in regional and international affairs and have conducted extensive and deep cooperation in areas of infrastructure, agriculture, education and healthcare.
China has become Rwanda’s biggest trading partner and project contractor. China has provided many supports for Rwanda in its process of reconstruction and industrialization. In 2017, the bilateral trade volume reached 157 million US dollars, with an increase of 10.56 percent was recorded. Since 1976, the Chinese government had already started to provide scholarships to Rwandan students. Chinese language teaching in Rwanda is developing with a sound momentum. As for healthcare, China started to dispatch its medical team to Rwanda in 1982, and there have been hundreds of medical staff working in Rwanda since then.
Key Areas of cooperation and trade
In the agriculture sector, each year about a hundred Rwandans are invited to visit China and gain a technology-based agricultural experience, especially in the rice and mushroom culture. For a country like Rwanda, which relies mostly on the agricultural manpower (more than 90% of Rwandans being involved in agriculture), it has still many lessons to learn from the Chinese experience. That is why Chinese experts come regularly to share their knowledge and skills with Rwandese farmers. For this purpose, in this year, the Agriculture Technology Demonstration Center in HUYE has so far offered courses for 168 local peasants. Again, Rwandans will always remember that the Chinese engineers were the first to start rice culture in NYABUGOGO valley.
Since 1971, China’s grants to Rwanda reached 170 million USD. Particularly, after 2004, the total grant is about 115 million USD, with 39 projects across Rwanda. Moreover, trade between the two countries doubled to $ 76.4 million in the first half of 2011 compared with the same period of 2010. Also, it is estimated that about 4,700 items from Rwanda had reached the Chinese market. In early September 2011, China gave Rwanda $15.7 million to boost trade between the two countries. All these were possible due to the Rwandese Government hard work to facilitate and attract foreign investors through its Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The latter sent a delegation in 2010 whose mission was to explain the benefits of investing in Rwanda to Chinese entrepreneurs. Moreover, China is also one of the few countries where RDB has an office, in Shenzhen, for the same purpose of attracting and facilitating Chinese investors.
Rwandans remain proud of their Government for its strong will to maintain a secure environment for investment. The final point to this relationship would be to mention the ongoing construction of the New Century Hotel. This is being done by a Chinese Company based in Hong Kong which has invested $ 60 millions in this building site. Rwandans are engaged not only in the building of bridges of confidence and mutual understanding but also they are committed in the support of China in many international fora especially on her just OneChina policy. From the Rwandese history, the best lesson so far learnt is that „united we stand and divided we fall‟.