Recognizing the high potential of Rwanda, Turkey’s new embassy in Kigali is the latest addition to the city’s thriving diplomatic community. Mehmet Raif Karaca, Ambassador of Turkey to the Republic of Rwanda, talks about the abundance of opportunities ahead.
European Times: How would you describe the political and economic cooperation between Turkey and Rwanda?
Mehmet Raif Karaca: We have traditional relations with North Africa, but relations with Sub-Saharan Africa are from more recent times. We had seven embassies before 2005 and now we have 34. Turkish Airlines has seven flights a week to Rwanda. Turkey’s policy is to open up to Africa and Rwanda is a hub to enter this region. We have high performers in the industry and manufacturing sector, and we see Africa as an equal partner towards each other’s development.
In 2015 the total Turkish investments in Rwanda amounted to US$350 million which was 12% of all FDI in Rwanda that year. We are interested in transferring plants and starting production here: leather, textile, agriculture and construction materials especially.
Regarding the legislative framework, I have signed several agreements: from military and education cooperation to the lifting of visas for officials. Agreements that are planned to be signed are on economic, scientific and technical cooperation, on mutual avoidance of double taxation and the promotion and protection of trade.
European Times: During his visit to Kigali, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs said that “Rwanda is an important partner to us in Africa. We need to increase the volume of bilateral trade to US$30 million.” What can be done by the two governments to achieve this?
Mehmet Raif Karaca: We will meet this target with ease, as in the construction sector alone, the trade has already reached US $40 million. The visa arrangements in place and bringing Turkish investments here will entail economic relations. A lot of projects are planned, especially in health and energy sector. We need to help in the diversification and development of the Rwandan economy by introducing top notch equipment and ensuring affordable supply. Regarding the challenges in transport, in light of new relations between Tanzania and Rwanda, this is going to improve, especially the infrastructure from the Tanzanian side. We are also ready to encourage Rwandans to enter the Turkish markets.
European Times: What is your personal message to our investment audience, why choose Rwanda?
Mehmet Raif Karaca: Rwanda is the safest place, clean, legislation is flexible, and the land is cheap. Investors should not expect quick returns in the beginning, but there are a lot of opportunities, and everyone can find a place of their own. Government institutions have instruments to help investors. Turkish companies have found a mutual benefit here, and I am sure private investors from other parts of the world can find that as well.