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Rwanda aims to learn and earn from Korea

Dec. 4, 2011 - 19:40 By Korea Herald
The Rwandan president has urged Korea to invest in his country as a gateway to Africa, and said he will take lessons from rapid development here.

President Paul Kagame said in a speech in Seoul on Friday that his once civil war-torn nation had created an accommodating investment environment.

Rwanda is rebuilding its economy following Africa’s worst genocide in modern times.

The 1994 killing of an estimated 800,000 people and involvement in conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has haunted the East African nation still dependent on aid.

But the country on Africa’s Albertine Rift has been hailed as the region’s beacon of hope less than twenty years after the mass slaughter spurred by conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu peoples.

Rwanda has since become one of the most stable countries in the region under Kagame’s strong-handed government, which took power following the genocide in 1994.

The president spoke at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan last week, before traveling with a Rwandan ministerial delegation to visit Korean companies including Samsung and Hyundai Motor.

“I have heard from the history of Korea that, even if you just look at the last 50 years, the transformation the country has gone through has a lot of lessons for my country and for Africa,” Kagame told Korean politicians including former President Kim Young-sam at Friday’s meeting organized by the Far East Broadcasting Company.

“I can say what we saw was very instructive in the context of what transformation the country has gone through and what Rwanda and Africa need to pursue as well,” Kagame said. 
Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Friday.(Far East Broadcasting Co.)

“There has to be a meeting of minds and collaboration between government and business leaders for many of these things to happen. In Rwanda we are supporting the private sector to be the leader of social and economic transformation.”

The president invited Korean businesses to take advantage of the “huge opportunities” for foreign investors in Rwandan industry including telecoms, mining, agriculture information technology and services.

“We are doing everything to make sure that this is a market that can work together with other parts of the world and most especially Korea,” he said.

“You will find us good partners and with that partnership it will be even easier to spread in the rest of Africa and the rest of the continent.

“In Rwanda we have the ambition to move ourselves toward prosperity, something that Korea has already achieved, and I look forward to our close collaboration in order for us to move very fast toward this goal.”

Coffee and tea exports as well as expanding tourism have driven Rwanda’s economic growth, but poverty is still widespread for the almost 130 million people living in the small country at the heart of a tumultuous but resource-rich region.

“Despite the tragic history of civil war, the fact that Rwanda became a model of development it is truly remarkable. I believe that President Kagame’s leadership played a huge part in it,” former Korean president Kim Young-sam said Friday.

“Korea was an aid receiving country in the past and is now an aid offering country. I have no doubt that Rwanda will become an economic center of Africa.”

By Kirsty Taylor  (