Does Kigali look like a city hosting CHOGM in less than 5 months? What does a city hosting CHOGM look like? What has not been done yet? Are we even ready?
These are some of the questions that Rwandans can often be heard asking out loud in regards to the oncoming Common Wealth Heads of State and Government Meeting scheduled for July this year.
The New Times Collins Mwai sought the UK high Commissioner to Rwanda, Jo Lomas, to give insight to some of the concerns.
The interview also covered aspects such as the UK's ambitions in COP26, trade and investments among others.
Below are excerpts:
As someone who has previously hosted CHOGM, does Kigali look ready to host the meeting in less than 5 months? What's not ready?
What I see is a huge amount of hard work going into this. This is in different aspects, the building of roads, preparation of personnel, government officials working on details of logistics and accommodation, those who are building hotels among others. Four months to go, there is still work to be done but it's also where we were two years ago when we hosted CHOGM in the UK.
But we are on the right track. There will be challenges for anyone organizing such a summit. It's a huge logistical challenge but I have to say that Rwanda is making good progress.
What's the UK, Rwanda and CHOGM Secretariat interaction like in the planning of the summit?
We hosted the last CHOGM and what we have been doing is sharing lessons learned in the process and answering questions. There have been questions on how we ran certain things which we are providing in meetings.
This will be a Rwandan CHOGM, there will be a few things that they might take from us as the previous hosts in others they are designing them on their own.
Much of the summit will involve the private sector as service providers among other roles; what could be their involvement beyond service provision?
CHOGM will put Rwanda on the international stage. There are lots of people who still look at Rwanda in terms of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and do not really know about Rwanda's success and development. A lot of people will get to see what Rwanda has achieved in 26 years which is a huge deal. In terms of people seeing and taking notice, businesses who have never thought of working with Rwanda, tourism among others. There will be specific opportunities for people to learn what Rwanda has to offer in terms of facilities, tourism among others.
There will be a business forum. When I was in London recently for UK-Africa Investment Summit, I attended a forum that RDB (Rwanda Development Board) had organized and the President came to speak, we got 40 businesses interested in what Rwanda has to offer. I do believe that there will be similar interest and commercial benefits coming out of the summit.
Speaking of investor interest, what aspects do you figure will interest investors coming in for the meeting?
What would be helpful for Rwandan companies is to showcase areas where they have had experience and success. Obviously, Rwanda is doing well in aspects such as high-end horticulture, technology and innovation, and that is where the future is.
Demonstrating that Rwanda is open for business and that demonstrating that the country is open for business including innovation is what has led companies such as Volkswagen to come here. That is where Rwanda can best demonstrate its added value as an investment destination.
Rwanda has been involved in developing the agenda of the summit, anyway, the involvement can be leveraged going forward?
It will show that Rwanda has a very internationalist approach especially in terms of trade and climate change and ICT among others. It will demonstrate a forward-looking country.
For all the items on the agenda, Rwanda has a lot to showcase. Rwanda is also going to be the chair for two years after CHOGM presenting an opportunity to drive priorities and showcase what Rwanda has to offer.
What's your government's expectation out of the meeting?
Coming out of the CHOGM held in London, we were really keen on having outcomes that could have an impact on the public. I know that President Paul Kagame feels the same, we are keen to show that CHOGM is not a talking shop and can deliver added value.
The best way to do that is to pick areas that can add value that is why we picked issues such as climate change, to be on the agenda. We expect to see member states take the lead in these issues and raise the profile on particular issues.
In January this year, the UK hosted the UK- Africa Investment summit, what outcomes stood out for you in regards to Rwanda?
To a certain extent, it's up to countries and companies to make their own deals, we act as a facilitator to make those contacts. The main point was to provide an opportunity for that to happen. There are ongoing negotiations and talks after the summit which we hope will come to fruition.
Rwanda also launched the first-ever Rwandan bond on the London Stock Exchange which out the country in the eye of investors and reduced the risk for Rwanda because it's in Rwandan Francs.
From the summit, what investment areas present in Rwanda could be of interest to UK investors coming into Rwanda?
One of the areas is high-end horticulture, where we have run a mission. We think that there is potential for manufacturing here but there are definitely niche areas that are very competitive. Other areas include health services, conferences, tourism, we have also been working with the mining sector. But it's up to Rwanda to decide.
The UK recently made big announcements in Climate Action, COP26 that will also impact international policy, why is this important to you?
We have a prime minister and a government that is really committed to these matters. We have seen the youth globally is really committed and demanding that action be taken on climate change.
The important this is that is five years from the Paris agreement where we made quite some important commitments. Five years on, not enough has been done to meet the commitments.
We see this as an important point to bring the countries together five years after and say that we really need to act. We are looking for countries to make national determinant contributors commitments. For the UK, we have written into law that we need to have net-zero emission by 2050. By 2035 we are going to be outlawing petrol and engine vehicles.
What are some of the windows for cooperation with countries such as Rwanda where there are ready projects that only await finance?
We have committed 11.6 B Pounds in international climate change finance over the next five years. That goes into a variety of initiatives, we played a role in the set-up of FONERWA to ensure that Rwanda can access such financing.