The New Times (Kigali)

22 August 2012

Rwanda: Australia, Rwanda Strengthen Ties

THE Special Envoy to the Australian Prime Minister, Bob McMullan, yesterday, met with President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro, and discussed the current bilateral relations between the two countries.

Australia is supporting Rwanda by providing special skills training to improve income, employment and enterprise opportunities through mining

Speaking to reporters after their meeting with President Kagame, McMullan said the two countries share strong relations and that he discussed with the Head of State how these relations can be boosted further.

"Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Kagame were asked by the UN Secretary General to co-chair a panel of the UN of Millennium Development Goals, so we discussed how they can work together effectively on this very important international task," said McMullan.

Earlier, McMullan while meeting senior government officials during an event held at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), announced support for education and training initiatives in Rwanda's mining sector as a means to boost the industry.

The support will focus on the three areas of scholarship and study tours, curriculum development and vocational training.

"Australia is supporting Rwanda by providing special skills training to improve income, employment and enterprise opportunities through mining. Effective management of mineral resources will make significant contribution to economic growth and help to diversify the Rwandan economy," he said.

He said that his country would support this effort by working with local educational institutions to develop appropriate curriculum, providing vocational skills training and offering scholarships in relevant areas of study.

The envoy added that Australia is currently seeking to be elected to the Security Council for the next two years and expressed hope to closely work with Rwanda if the two secure the non permanent seats.

Rwanda is also bidding for this position as Africa's representative.

Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister of Natural Resources hailed Australia for the initiative which he said was vital for the growth of mining industry.

"It's now our commitment as government in partnership with mining companies to develop on-job skills training that benefits workers," he said.

Kamanzi stated that capacity building is very important in the mining industry because most workers still lack some skills.

Rwandans will be invited to participate in study tours in the areas of women and mining, technical and vocational educational training and higher education.

Australia will assist Rwanda to assess skills needs of various stakeholders' government, industry, and civil society in the mining sector and determine the training required to meet those needs.

Dr Michael Biryabarema, the Director General for Mines and Geology in the Ministry of Natural Resources said: "This is a wonderful experience that is making us get exposed to the Australian mining industry and expertise. We should build on this to transform our sector."

He stated that the Australian government will be supporting a diploma course in mining engineering at KIST and vocational training institutions like Tumba College of Technology and Kicukiro College of Technology.

"They have not announced the amount they will inject in but what we are interested in is the effectiveness of the people not the amounts of money."

"We have people in the mining industry who are undertrained which make our sector lose a lot due to practice which is not 100 percent professional," noted Biryabarema.

Rwanda produces about 8000 to 9000 tons of mineral compounds every year and the amount of money depends on the market dynamics. Last year the mineral industry generated $158 million.

Rwanda-Australia diplomatic relations were established in 2007. Today, partnerships with Australia range from scholarships given to Rwandan students to trade relationships with Australia.

In 2011, Australia ranks 14th as Rwanda's principal export destination and Rwanda as 33rd Australia's principal import sources.

Australia is also a prominent participant in peacekeeping missions in Africa including under UN Mission in Sudan and the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur.

In a related development, Australia is offering 1000 scholarships to African post graduates from 51 eligible countries in September 2012 and 32 Rwandans have been confirmed for the scholarship opportunities.

The Australian Government is working with KIST to prepare a curriculum for a Diploma in Mining engineering which will be available to students in September 2012.

Australia Awards in Africa (AAA) promotes development in Africa through scholarships and fellowships in areas where Australia is internationally recognised as having expertise, including Agriculture and Food Security, Health, Mining and Natural Resource Management, Public Policy and Water and Sanitation.

The scholarships are designed to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia and the global community. They aim at assisting African countries progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Australia has more than tripled its development assistance to Africa since 2007. By 2015-2016 it is estimated sub-Saharan Africa will receive A$500million a year.

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