Rwanda expands its horizons, looks to the Middle-East
Last week, during a one-day visit of the Turkish deputy Prime Minister M. Besir Atalay to Rwanda, the two countries signed an MoU with the aim of strengthening the existing relations and to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas.
One might ask: why Turkey? Why now? “Rwanda is a country that is expanding its horizon, and Turkey is a country that allows us to be part of the Middle-East, a part of the world that we had been ignoring,” was the reply of Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. “This relation helps a lot in bringing Turkey’s presence in this part of Africa and making our presence highly seen in the Middle-East.”
To further consolidate that intention, there is also question of Rwanda and Turkey opening embassies. “This will be an added gesture to the growing strength of the relationship between the two countries,” Mushikiwabo said. So far, Turkey has been represented to Rwanda by its Ambassador to Uganda.
Turkey is not the only country targeted by the horizon-widening Rwanda; the United Arab Emirates, Southern Africa (Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique) are also on the list. Rwanda wants to have more presence in all those countries, therefore using its diplomacy to supplement its economic and business growth. “We don’t have to stay in touch only with those whom we’ve been friends with for decades, we have to seek for new ties to strengthen our international networks,” Mushikiwabo observed, adding that this helps in wealth creation. “For instance, Turkey is a country advanced in ICT and tourism. Though our previous friendship and relationship was based on trade and investment, but we want to enlarge it by borrowing their advanced technologies and partnering in tourism.”
The signing of the MoU also underscores a growing interest on the side of Turkey. “We already have Turkish Airlines operating here since March, and RwandAir will be flying on Ankara soon,” Mushikiwabo pointed out. “There is also a Turkish organization which wants to build a school in Rwanda, and Fatih University which wants to open a branch here. And we already have Turkish investors in tourism, energy and hospitality, while others are involved in capacity building in matters related to cement production, air transport and airport management.”
What makes Turkey also interesting, apart from its location, is that it is an emerging country, both economically and politically – it has off late acted as a mediator in conflicts in the Middle-East.
“As Rwanda, we find it attractive that in addition to our traditional friends such as the USA, the UK or Germany, we look for new ones especially on the Asian continent, not because of the location, but due to the rapid economic development taking place in that part of the World,” Mushikiwabo explained, adding that Turkey has itself emerged only during the last 10 to 12 years. “Turkey is special because it is familiar with the situation in African countries, and Rwanda in particular.”