India is an inspiration: Rwandan minister

By Devirupa Mitra, IANS,

New Delhi : Rwanda, a Commonwealth nation in eastern Africa that is trying to evolve as a nascent democracy, wants the Indian government to get more of its dynamic companies to invest in the continent and is scouting for joint ventures in education, energy, health and other economic sectors.

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“The Indian government needs to look at seriously projecting the country as a place of hope and encouraging more Indian companies to go to Africa,” Vincent Karega, the visiting minister of infrastructure, told IANS in an interview.

The minister, accompanied by a 15-member business delegation, is on a 10-day long visit to India, during which he has already been to Ahmedabad and Mumbai. His last leg is a four-day stay in India’s technology capital of Bangalore.

“India is an inspiration in the way it has become a key global player,” said Karega, adding, “This visit is a message that countries from the South, which have shared historical backgrounds, should work together”.

Rwanda is trying to come out of years of civil war that claimed the lives of a millon people. A country of 10.7 million, it is especially interested in capacity building to foster entrepreneurship among its people. “We want Rwandans to come here to India and be exposed and learn from the business environment here,” he said.

Karega is highly impressed by the spirit of entrepreneurship in India. “In Africa, there is a perception that you can start a business only if you have lots of money. But among Indians, they start with a small fund and family support and within a few years, they are in charge of companies with a hundred people. I want to encourage that kind of mindset,” he said.

Ticking off the areas where he would like collaboration with India, Karega said he was looking at the areas of energy, health and education and mining.

During his visit, Karega met with the union renewable energy minister, Farooq Abdullah. “He (Abdullah) talked about ways to tap into opportunities in this sector in rural areas,” said Karega.

He was interested in learning about India’s major plans in expansion of solar and bio-gas plants, in which the south Asian country had developed considerable expertise. The visiting minister was also impressed with the concept of mini-hydropower plants which has been advocated by the renewable energy ministry.

At the meeting, Abdullah offered to bring the benefits of India’s knowledge in renewable energy to Rwanda. “The Indian minister committed to do some pilot projects in one or two villages in Rwanda,” said Karega.

India is already investing in Rwanda’s energy sector, with a line of credit of $80 million to fund the country’s largest ever hydropower dam for 28 megawatt on the Nyabarongo river. A consortium of Indian private company Angelique International and state Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, is executing the project, which will be completed in 2012.

The Indian private sector is also showing interest in Rwanda, with Zyus Cadila committed to opening a pharmaceutical plant in India, said the Rwandan minister. “Essar wants to come to look at prospects for geo-thermal energy and gold mining,” he added.

Besides, the large Tata conglomerate is being tapped to conduct urban transport studies in the country.

He pointed out that there were about 1,000 Rwandan students studying in various Indian institutions. He said collaborations with Indian educational institutions to upgrade his country’s educational infrastructure would be highly desirable.

“There is a lot of things that we can do together,” said Karega.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at [email protected] )