This Monday and Tuesday, July 8th and 9th, the Services Investment Forum, Rwanda’s first investment forum focusing on the development of the services sector, is held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. On the closing day of the conference, Tuesday July 9th, a VC4Africa meetup is hosted! David van Dijk, VC4Africa’s Director of Entrepreneurship Development is attending the whole conference on behalf of the VC4Africa community. Below we interview Hubert Ruzibiza, head of the Services Department of the Rwanda Development Board, the organizer of the event.
Why is this event being organized? Is this part of a larger plan coming online to promote investment activity in the country?
“The purpose of the Services Investment Forum is to showcase trade and investment opportunities in several service sectors in Rwanda to investors across the globe. We will be discussing policy issues related to the sectors so as to improve the business environment. The forum will also be an opportunity for potential investors and local players to could create linkages.”
What is the unique opportunity for Rwanda and how does the country aim to position itself?
“The services sector has been the biggest contributor to Rwanda’s GDP in recent years. There are significant opportunities for the sector to grow further, but many of these opportunities require significant investments to be unlocked. It is our aim to position Rwanda as an efficient and profitable services hub for the East African region. If we are successful in achieving this aim, investors stand to benefit from the growing domestic market and consumer base.”
Rwanda has been compared to Mauritius and Singapore. Can you talk about this comparison and where there are similarities or differences?
“The similarities are most obviously due to the geographic sizes of the three countries. The lack of large endowments of natural resources to jumpstart economic growth is another pertinent point of comparison. While Rwanda’s economic growth is not yet at the rate that Singapore and Mauritius currently enjoy, many lessons can be derived from the Singaporean and Mauritian success stories. Such lessons pertain to leveraging our comparative advantage. The services sector presents a unique chance for Rwanda to bolster its growth.”
What is the key conversation you hope will take place at next week’s event, and why should entrepreneurs and investors take notice?
“We hope to accelerate the rate of investment in the services sector so as to create value in this sector. More immediately, we wish to put a face to the services sector by ensuring that potential investors have projects and providers to begin conversing with. Often investors exist, but the linkages with potential recipients of investments are absent due to a lack of information on both sides. We hope to create such linkages.”
The country seeks to promote PE/VC activity. Given the country’s size and strength in certain sectors, where do you see the key opportunities?
“The financial sector is a sure win in this regard as demand for financial services continues to rise in Rwanda. We expect there to be a scaling up of infrastructure in the ICT sector in preparation for growth. Therefore, this is an opportunity for investors. Other sectors that present opportunities are the healthcare, and logistics. We believe in entrepreneurship being paramount in Job creation therefore, PE/VC are also needed in large number for SME and startup”
Are there any success stories or examples you would like to highlight?
“We are quite happy of the success of the Eurobond which has been oversubscribed and testify the trust of the global business community for Rwanda as a preferred investment climate destination in Africa. The capital raised will be used for infrastructure and particularly our new convention center. The latter will propel Rwanda as an events and conferences destination.
In addition, the launch this year in Davos of the East African Exchange (EAX) is good example of how electronic trade of commodities is a tool that will ease trade across borders and integrate our markets and consequently implement the vision of transforming Rwanda into a Financial Services Center.”
Can you highlight some of the concrete proposals now under way that will improve the investment climate?
“We are in the process of setting up a Rwanda Trade in Services Council. The mandate of such a council will be to create a dialogue between services sector operators, policy makers, regulators and all relevant stakeholders whether local, regional and international that should assist Rwanda fast tracking the transformation into a services led economy by 2020. The council will be organized in committees representing subsectors including: financial services, health services, logistics & transport services and retail services.”
Anything you feel is important to add?
“We strongly encourage all potential investors to get in touch with the Rwanda Development Board so as to gain access to the exciting opportunities that exist.”
The Services Investment Forum will take place on July 8th & 9th, 2013 at the Kigali Serena Hotel. See their website for more information. And sign up here for the July 9th VC4Africa Kigali meetup!