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[Bridge to Africa] Rwanda, financial gateway to Africa

Envoy stresses Rwanda's speedy administrative process for investors, 2050 plan to build high-income, predictable market

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : April 17, 2024 - 12:11

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Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi said the African country can serve as a swift and safe financial gateway for Korean companies to enter Africa.

Noting similarities between Korea and his country's history, systems and culture, Manzi underscored Rwanda's transformation from a war-torn country to a potential economic powerhouse.

“We've gone from chaos; it was the Korean War here in Korea, it was the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda that leveled the country back to zero. And it had to grow back through investment within these people, within the infrastructure of rebuilding, within setting up the private sector,” said Manzi.

Korea has not so far been one of the leading players in terms of investment in the continent of Africa, but it's not too late, he stressed.

“While the entire world is slowing down, Africa is growing at a high pace. It's really a time for Korea to start looking at Africa,” he said.

“Public and private investment will enable Rwanda to become a high-income country by 2050, which is our goal."

According to Manzi, Rwanda's rapid development trajectory aims to achieve socioeconomic milestones by 2050 and build a predictable market for investments.

Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Rwanda's economic growth, averaging 10 percent annually, presents lucrative opportunities for Korean investors in Africa, Manzi underlined.

He urged Korean investors to make use of Rwanda's predictable business environment and ease of doing business, which allows global access and enables opening a business in just three hours with subsequent frameworks that support legal safeguards for investor protection.

“When you want to make an investment, You want to ensure that you have returns, but you also want to ensure that there's a predictable market on which Rwanda has been working for the last 30 years," he said.

“Rwanda has focused all policy on the business framework. We are ranked No. 2 today in Africa."

The ambassador highlighted that trading and investing in Rwanda offers South Korea access not only to Rwanda's market of 13 million, but also to the larger East African Community, which encompasses 177 million people and boasts a combined gross domestic product of $240 billion.

Furthermore, Rwanda's connection to 1.3 billion people across 54 United Nations member states was underscored, with data sourced from the Kigali International Financial Center, Africa's latest financial hub and the third African member of the World Alliance of International Financial Centers.

Cultural similarities

Korea and Rwanda share similarities in cultural aspects, the ambassador said, noting the African country's culture of "vuva vuva" that prioritizes speed.

Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Bakuramutsa Nkubito Manzi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Embassy of Rwanda in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

“In Korea, we say 'ppalli ppalli'; in Rwanda, we say 'vuva vuva.' Very similar culture. We want things done well, but fast. There's no time to waste," Manzi emphasized.

“Within three hours, you have a license. If you have all the paperwork that is required -- which of course is the purpose of your business, the name of the owner, a shareholding agreement, if you have a partnership -- and you put all that online, your business is open,” he said.

The top envoy to Seoul said Rwanda can serve as a launchpad for broader African market penetration, reiterating his country’s commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships with shared values of speed, safety and progress.

"Korean companies will find themselves in an environment that is very similar to what they've gone through here," he stated.

"In Rwanda, we aspire to advance collectively and swiftly, acknowledging the wisdom that while going alone may be faster, going together ensures enduring progress," Manzi said, echoing the words of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

About Rwanda

Capital : Kigali

Population : 14,345,403 (as of April 15, 2024)

GDP per capita: $966.23

Start of diplomatic ties with S. Korea: March 1963 (with N. Korea: April, 1972)

The following is the fourth installment of a series of interviews, analyses and features shedding light on bilateral ties between South Korea and African countries both in the past and today, ahead of the Korea-Africa Summit in Seoul. -- Ed.