A partnership agreement to launch a joint venture which will see the development of Djibouti's land in Rwanda, was signed on Thursday in Kigali between the two countries.
Djibouti has a 10-hectare piece of land in the Kigali Special Economic Zone which it was gifted in reciprocity to the land that Djibouti had given Rwanda back in 2013.
The agreement was signed by leaders from Prime Economic Zones Ltd which manages the Kigali Special Economic Zone and Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, and was witnessed by Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The joint venture could be established as soon as next week and would pave way for the beginning of the work to develop the land, including designing of project proposals.
"Together, we are going to develop infrastructure, advance factory units on the 10 hectares. In the next few months or years, we should see something on the land," Emmanuel Hategeka, RDB's Chief Operating Officer told the press during the signing.
Jeanne Isabelle Gasana, the Managing Director of Prime Economic Zones (PEZ) told The New Times that both the companies will each have 50 per cent stake in the new joint venture.
The leaders did not share many details about the plans for the development of the land, the kind of investments they will make and specific timelines for completion of activities set to be done.
However, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, the Chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority indicated that this was part of the bigger plan for the two countries to work together.
Rwanda owns about 60 hectares of land in Djibouti.
"We want to take Rwanda to the ocean and we want Rwanda to take us to the heart of Africa," the Chairman said, emphasising the importance of the partnership.
Hadi had told The New Times in an exclusive interview at the sidelines of the just-concluded Africa CEOs Forum that the land is situated in the free trade zone along the port of Djibouti, making it strategic for investments like manufacturing and logistics.
Djibouti has the largest industrial park in Africa, the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, which covers 48.2 square kilometres of land and lies along the coastline.
The economic zone was inaugurated last year in the presence of President Paul Kagame who at the time expressed support saying that the free trade zone would also benefit the region, including Rwanda.
New trade corridor
Hadi stated that they are now building infrastructure to have a corridor to the great lakes countries.
"Alongside Dar es Salam corridor and Mombasa we are offering Djibouti corridor through Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia," he noted, adding that Djibouti has sufficient ports with capacity to handle a lot of traffic.
Hadi had earlier met the Minister for Trade and Commerce Soraya Hakuziyaremye in Kigali, a discussion he said focused on how the two countries can co-invest in feasible economic sectors.
"The conversation was about investing together on shipping lines and on the free zones. We are investing here in Kigali and also Rwanda is investing in Djibouti. The discussion was about how we can fast-track and finalise, in the next one or two years, this investment," he said.
In 2013, Djibouti offered Rwanda a 20-hectare piece of land at the port of Djibouti, and the latter was in reciprocity offered a plot of land in the Kigali Special Economic Zone.
In 2017, Djibouti Government allocated more hectares of land to Rwanda, expanding from the 20ha to the current 60ha near the Autonomous Port of Djibouti and the Dubai World International Port.
The land has potential to generate revenue to Rwanda and help the landlocked country gain access to international markets.
It is currently remains unexploited.
But Hategeka said they have handed over a letter to Djibouti defining the implementation modalities and the development of her land in Djibouti.
"Djibouti has offered to include our land into their bigger Djibouti international free trade zone project, and by virtue of Rwanda owning a piece of that land we become equity shareholders in the bigger project of Djibouti," he said.
Djibouti International Free Trade Zone and the seashore are set to become a centre for shipping, trade, commerce and finance in the region, the country's leaders believe.
"We are building the infrastructure. For the past three years, three new ports have been built and one free zone," he noted.
With the development, the country wants to connect the East Africa region.
At the moment, out of 49 landlocked countries in the world, 16 are in Africa and ten in the horn of Africa.