Rwandan Ambassador to South Africa, Vincent Karega says Africa is the future of the world. His country is one of the first to lift visa requirements for Africans, after Ghana, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda and Seychelles.
|AMBASSADOR VINCENT KAREGA|
On the sidelines of the lifting of visa requirements for all Africans, the diplomat adds that the move seeks to boost the inflow of skills to Rwanda.
The Ambassador encourages migrants to always meet with professionals, business men wherever they are, to enable them rapidly integrate.
He boasts about Rwanda’s growth rate of 8% yearly for 16 years now and discloses that his country is attracting investors in energy, infrastructure, real estate, agribusiness, telecom, ICT, banking logistics and other sectors. He also touches on the thorny issues of resentment and xenophobia in Africa and claims of right violations and dictatorship by Kigali….
Read on for full exclusive interview
Rwanda is one of the first African Countries to open its boarders through the visa free policy. What is the intention and interests?
|RWANDAN PRESIDENT, PAUL KAGAME|
First of all we believe that no stand-alone country will make Africa competitive if we don’t pull our brains, capital and markets together. The opening of borders to Africans contribute to tourism revenue, easy inflow of needed skills and capital from the continent, limit illegal immigrants as it is easy to be legal than illegal.
Beyond opening our borders we are engaged in customs union in East Africa and Comesa. We have common markets and joint rail, electricity, pipeline and optical fiber projects. We believe in a common currency in the future in EAC and more countries on board. The interests are domestic and pan Africanists as well. Open sky-scraping of roaming charges are also underway with neighbouring countries with hope to expand to the whole continent.
By implication Africans can now get visa on arrival in Rwanda?
Besides this appreciated diplomatic move could you briefly present your diplomatic representation here in South Africa?
Rwanda has been in cooperation with SA since early 1992. But then in 1994 the genocide occurred and the previous regime was thrown out. Since 1994 the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RFP led government has been collaborating and cooperating with South Africa through the ANC and through the government. So far out of that cooperation, a lot has happened in domains of education, security and defense, public service capacity building and also investment in telecommunications, mining industry and so on.
|RWANDAN EMBASSY, PRETORIA,SA|
How many Rwandans can be estimated to be living in SA and what do they do ?
We have about 1000 Rwandans in SA. 200 of them are students who are here on temporary bases and every year those who complete their studies go home. It has been on record that 99% of Rwandans who come for studies or development of skills always return home when they have completed.
It’s something we are proud of. Rwanda according to the World Bank Doing Business Index is number three (3) on the continent where you can do business with ease. It means that foreigners or locals can easily register companies and can easily identify the business they want to do and with very minimum red tapes or bureaucracy. Rwanda is the least corrupt country on the continent. It’s such a beautiful country.
Back to your question about Rwandans in SA, we also have about 200 professionals who are established. Some are permanent residents others are naturalized. We also have dissidents who oppose the government of Rwanda. They are very few. There are Rwandan refugees here due to what happened in 1994. They have built social ties in SA. They still have hesitations to return home because they don’t know how Rwanda has changed.
|RWANDAN CULTURAL DISPLAY|
They probably rely on internet news, sometimes generated by the dissidents or those who have created the chaos for them to run away. So while we have a very progressive Rwandan diaspora in SA we also have part of it that is quite negative.
But as an embassy and as a mission, we continue to help whoever wants to return home and advice whoever wants to settle so that they do so according to the rules and laws of SA ,in a dignifying way. We would continue to mobilize them to return home because we also have an economy that is growing since more than 16 years at an average of 8% annually.
We have opportunities in Rwanda in ICT and many things. Rwanda is well integrated in the East African Region where so many opportunities exist. It is good to be all over in the world. It is good that Rwandans are in SA and South Africans are in Rwanda. In the end what’s important is to be where one is more productive and effective and live legally.
Has it been easy for Rwandans to integrate themselves?
Most of them who have integrated are not complaining at all. We are a society where probably due to our bad history the migration of Rwandans started early 1959. Many Rwandans have kind of developed a thick skin in learning and knowing how to live abroad without disturbing the society they find themselves. They easily integrate. Some have married. Others remain totally Rwandans but respect the culture and rules and focus onto their activities.
We know in SA we talk about development but also crime and xenophobia? How did you live the ‘xenophobic’ moments in SA as an embassy?
What happened here happens in Africa in many places today. As economies continue to grow in the world there is still a bunch of people who are not benefiting. So the poor in many places in the world today are much more eager to quickly gain access to wealth.In that competition for resources and wealth sometimes misinformed people look at foreigners and think they are the problem for their lack of advancement. It has happened here in SA.
|RWANDA's FAST GROWING AIRLINE|
It has happened in Congo Brazzaville with people of DRC being chased. It has happened between Nigerians and Ghanaians, with Cameroonians and Nigerians. It has happened in Gabon where at one time they did not want people from Mali... Cote D’Ivoire with Burkina and Europeans with Africans, Arabs with blacks. Reflects from people not always being friendly or interactive are issues of society.
It is important for South Africa and other countries to continue broaden the African agenda to ensure that what we fear in the others is quite dismissed. The more a country has people the more it becomes diverse culturally. The more it becomes a market and the better it can develop. All of that requires a lot of infrastructure, information, social and community education so that the people and migrants integrate and the locals mingle well and work together to be more productive.
|RWANDA's CAPITAL, KIGALI|
In a situation where one section of the population feels resources are just within the hands of either migrants or the locals are not opening up there is usually such tensions.
How do we build a cohesive and inclusive South Africa and Africa?
Cohesion is quite a challenge everywhere .Before I think of cohesion in SA I would think of cohesion in my country that went through a genocide in 1994 where one section of the population decided to almost exterminate the other section of our population, based on colonial definition of quite funny differences. Yet as a country we need to be united to be stronger than we are, to be a bigger market .So we have been spending 21 years to mobilize the Rwandans to cohesion, unity and reconciliation.
|KIGALI FROM SKY|
I am sure other societies including SA are also facing the challenges. The country has been liberated but inequality is still huge, unemployment is high and the legacy of apartheid continues to haunt and affect people. So what is important is that education continues to be given high importance.
Job creation, skill development continue to take place so that the reduction of unemployment and inequality would inspire more hopes in the hearts of few who remain destitute and are extremely poor in a society that overall is prosperous. Those are understandable challenges .21 years after apartheid we cannot say everything can be perfect.
Some fingers are pointing at foreign nationals of being allegedly responsible for the upsurge of crime and the insecurity South Africa is facing. Do you share that view?
I don’t think I share that view because I attend different meetings where the government, from the President, Minister of Home Affairs and others condemned this situation.But of course there have been pronouncements by other politicians who seek to explain and justify what happened. Sometimes fingers to migrants. That is an indication of the complexity of the matter and difficulty in understanding of the problem.
|RWANDA BY NIGHT|
We need to have a further study or assessment of what is underneath the problems and also look at how the immigration system works here. Do we have more people than the country can support or absorb?
Is entry are easy or difficult? Is the solution to deal with the non-registered who have been living in SA for years or to stop new comers? There are so many things to be taken into consideration.
It’s a complex and African issue though they go beyond Africa. Today we are talking about refugees and immigrants in Europe. It’s not easy for them to be integrated. We should not see this problem in a smaller way because we are in SA. It’s not a South African problem.
should also appreciate the fact that SA is the number one taker of refugees on the continent. We can’t ignore that. Few issues that may arise from that should not be above the good things SA is doing. Or overshadow the spirit of Ubuntu. They also have their own problems, remember.
Some people might be afraid that these attacks could reoccur. Is your embassy having some emergency response system just in case…?
We first of all have a message to our people. Not just to go into any country because you are told it’s a country of honey and milk. We encourage Rwandans where ever they are to remember they have a home called Rwanda.
A home that is eager to welcome them even though we had a history where sometimes some people were not welcomed in Rwanda. Today we have a country that welcomes everyone. Secondly we can’t manage our country like a prison where people don’t travel.
Most developed countries; China, America Japan, etc have emigrants. We wish our people to go out and acquire skills and ideas to make them grow. When they have a clear plan and clear activities integration becomes easier.
When they become dependent in a foreign land they become a burden and they can be a cause to any resentment. We always welcome complains and then see how to assist. Even in a case of voluntary repatriation.
Has your diplomatic row with SA been resolved definitely?
Not definitely but there is very positive progress. The two countries revived their historical cordial diplomatic relations. What happened is between two countries and cannot be addressed through the media. If we have differences, we have bilateral channels and that’s where we debate the differences. But the two countries believe they are capable of reviving their relations without a mediator.
They believe they can do many things to benefit their countries and the continent. On that note I believe the relations would be normal in not too distant future.
Your government is accused of persecuting dissidents and those opposed to the regime even out of their country?
I know the accusations are there but I prefer not to go in details because bringing case by case only complicates matters. If someone is found dead the killers should be found as well. However let’s look at the positive features of Rwanda. Rwanda has been attracting African and international investment. Lots of Kenyan, Nigerian, South African investments are in Rwanda.
It is a good thing as far as South-South Cooperation is concerned. We have American, Belgian and Dutch companies and more and more Rwandan companies growing. Rwanda Air too is fast growing. With 3 hours and half you are in Rwanda from SA and we have a flight every morning. Our Airline goes to Cameroon, Lagos, Accra, Libreville, Brazzaville etc and it is growing in destinations on the continent Africa. Rwanda is a country to do business with. Rwanda is not a country that wants to suppress a section of its population.
It has suffered in the past and it still has few people running around. That could be handled by the courts and security.
What future for RWANDA and the African continent?
Africa and its 54 countries still have problems. There are other issues even in stable countries.
At same time there are positive stories of growth everywhere from two to ten percent. Africa is continent and it can resolve emerging problems. The AU has been put in place and the African army can intervene. We have had problems in West Africa and Ecowas helped. Like Boko Haram. East Africa is fighting Alshabab. Peace keepers in Africa are there and there are platforms and mechanisms helping to solve problems. The future of Africa is promising.