Over the past few years, the development of Rwanda’s infrastructure and economy has greatly benefitted from the significant investment from China, according to insiders. The two countries have strengthened cooperation in various fields, particularly in the area of investment.
“The collaboration in investment has led to numerous benefits for both countries, such as increased economic growth, job opportunities, and improved access to resources and capital,” Emmanuel Bugingo, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security in the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda, told ChinAfrica.
“It has been achieved through reducing trade barriers, harmonising regulations, and creating investment incentives to create an environment conducive to investment,” Bugingo said, adding that “as a result, it has attracted more Chinese investors to the country and ultimately has contributed to overall economic development.”
China and Rwanda have deep and wide-ranging cooperation. China is Rwanda’s largest trading partner and largest project contractor, with bilateral trade volume reaching a little over $477 million by the end of 2022, according to the General Administration of Customs of China. Chinese entities are both funding physical infrastructure and investing in talent training programmes to develop skills necessary to manage a modern economy.
Bugingo said Rwanda-China cooperation is based on shared values, mutual respect and common interests, emphasising that the bilateral ties are likely to flourish further, enabling Rwanda and China to realise common development through win-win cooperation.
A large number of China-aided infrastructure facilities have given a strong boost to Rwanda’s economic and social development. Road construction is one of the most important areas of Chinese involvement. Chinese investment is helping to expand the country’s road network and improve road conditions.
Investments have bolstered connectivity between urban and rural areas, enabling seamless movement of goods and services throughout the country. One of the major projects is the Kigali Ring Road, a 42-km road encircling the capital city of Kigali.
Built by China Road and Bridge Corp. (CRBC), the road has improved traffic flow and connections among different sections of the city. The company has also built the 13-km Bugesera Airport Highway and a flyover in Kicukiro District in Kigali.
People who frequently use the new Bugesera Airport Highway said previously they had to deal with heavy traffic all the way from the Sonatube Roundabout to the Gahanga Trading Centre due to the narrow and damaged two-way two-lane road connecting them.
“This road has made it easier for people to visit the Eastern Province of Rwanda, as it now only takes 40 minutes to drive from Kigali to Bugesera District, instead of about one and a half hours before the upgrading of the road by the Chinese company,” said Vicent Ndekezi, a resident of Kicukiro.
Another notable project that connects Rwanda and Burundi is the Gihanga-Kibuye-Karongi Road, also implemented by CRBC, which is a 66-km road that connects the districts of Bujumbura in Burundi, and Karongi and Kibuye in Rwanda.
Chinese investment has also been instrumental in the development of Bugesera International Airport, which is being built by China State Construction Engineering Corp. The airport is expected to be one of the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 4.5 million passengers per year. The airport will boost tourism and trade in the region, creating new opportunities for economic growth.
One notable example of Chinese investment in Rwanda’s agricultural sector is the China-Rwanda Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre, which was established in 2018.
The centre, which was built with Chinese funding and expertise and provides a platform for training and research in agricultural technology, aims to promote the adoption of modern farming practices and improved agricultural productivity, so as to raise farmers’ incomes and living conditions.
The centre is famous for Juncao, a farming technology for growing mushrooms on small pieces of land. Currently, over 8,000 farmers in the country use this technology to raise incomes and fight malnutrition.
Leodinas Mushimiyimana, a mushroom farmer, said his mushroom harvest has grown five-fold after using Juncao technology. The 35-year-old father of four said his mushroom farm has been yielding more than 75 kg per week from 400 tubes.
With a selling price of 3,500 Rwandan francs (approximately $3.5) per mushroom tube, his business has proven to be a lucrative alternative after he failed to find a job five years ago. Mushimiyimana said he is lucky because mushroom farming has done well, bringing him an income of $2,000 to $2,500 per month since late 2022.
Huye Mountain Tea Factory, set up by China National Complete Engineering Corp., has a production capacity of 3,000 tonnes of tea per year and has created jobs for local people.
Real estate and e-commerce
In the real estate sector, Chinese developers are building several high-profile projects in Kigali. These projects include the construction of modern office buildings and residential apartments, which are expected to ease the country’s housing shortage.
Kigali Heights is a landmark, multi-purpose development site consisting of offices, retail outlets, and luxury apartments. The project was also built by CRBC, and is located in the Central Business District of Kigali. It is one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Another significant real estate development in Rwanda is the Vision City project, which is being built by China’s Zhongmei Engineering Group. This project is a large-scale residential complex that will provide housing for over 22,000 people. The first phase consisting of over 500 units has already been completed and occupied.
Cross-border e-commerce has emerged as a new highlight of practical cooperation between the two countries. Rwanda’s coffee beans are popular on Chinese e-commerce platforms, and each kilogram of beans sold in China can bring coffee farmers $4 more than before.
In 2021, Rwanda became the first African country to export dried chilli peppers to China and is expected to export 50,000 tonnes of dried chilli peppers during a five-year period. Other high-quality agricultural products from Rwanda are also expected to gain access to China’s vast market.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has praised the investments in Rwanda, calling China a “valuable partner” in building a “strong and prosperous Rwanda.”
According to Kagame, the Chinese-funded projects have been “transformative” and have “changed the face of the country.”
The Export-Import Bank of China is expected to sponsor a “smart education” project in secondary schools in Rwanda with the funding of $15 million. The money will be used for bringing Internet to over 3,000 schools across the country.
Chinese companies are also training young people in Rwanda on computer technology and e-commerce through online and offline methods. In addition, every year, hundreds of Rwandan students receive Chinese scholarships to study in China.
During the pandemic, China donated testing medical care kits and vaccines. Official statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre show that China provided several shipments of personal protective equipment to Rwanda and donated over 500,000 doses of vaccines, while Chinese medical experts shared with Rwandan counterparts their experience in fighting COVID-19.
African Times published the article in partnership with ChinAfrica magazine. Extensive Engagement– ChinAfrica