Firmly committed to enhancing the bilateral relations and promoting strong regional cooperation, Uganda and Rwanda enjoy long standing partnerships in numerous fields. As landlocked countries facing similar challenges, their governments are dedicated to accelerating the implementation of regional projects, as well as boosting the effective integration of the economy into a regional economy. With nearly a decade of experience in Kigali, Richard T. Kabonero, High Commissioner of the Republic of Uganda to Rwanda, discusses current projects and future plans for economic integration of the region.
European Times: What major projects and programs is Uganda working on in relation to Rwanda?
Richard T. Kabonero: Our main priority is to facilitate regional integration in every aspect.We recently launched the Northern Corridor Integration Projects between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, aimed at accelerating the pace of infrastructure projects, which are jointly planned, funded and executed. In that regard one of the most important project is Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) system project linking Rwanda and Uganda to the port of Mombasa to enable faster socio-economic transformation of the East and Central African economies.
Other projects are focused on power generation, transmission and inter-connectivity, human resource capacity building, immigration services and ICT. To give you specific examples; One-stop border posts have increased for 30%, thus significantly reducing the transit time and cost of transportation of goods from ports to their final destination. Currently citizens of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda can travel regionally only with their national ID and we are in the process of removing work permits as well, which will significantly benefit the free movement of labour. In order to facilitate communication and reduce communication costs, we launched the “one area network” which eliminated roaming charges. In the next few months we plan to domesticate our air space so that flights between Rwanda and Uganda are considered as domestic flights. All these measures aim to boost the development of the region and to attract FDI.
European Times: What would you like to emphasize in terms of the trade volume between the two countries?
Richard T. Kabonero: Rwanda became Uganda’s most important trading partner, with a bilateral trade volume expanding from US $92 million to US $200 million in the past two years. Strong bilateral and regional trade is crucial for the development of the region, which is why we are focused on reducing the costs of doing business and improving business opportunities from every aspect.
European Times: What is your personal message to potential investors?
Richard T. Kabonero: East Africa offers superb investment opportunities and the best time to invest is now, when costs are still low. With excellent return of investments records, zero tolerance for corruption, rich natural resources and business oriented governments, both Rwanda and Uganda are open for European investors and provide barrier-free business climate and access to a large and well-connected regional market.