The Rwanda-Japan relationship began in 1962 at the dawn of Rwanda’s independence. As the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their bilateral relations, Ernest Rwamucyo, Rwandan Ambassador to Japanand Masahiro Imai, Japanese Ambassador to Rwanda exchange their views on the past, present and future of the Rwandan-Japanese relationship.
Q. What has built the healthy and friendly bilateral relations between the two countries? How do you assess the achievements of countries and peoples?
Rwanda and Japan share an unbreakable bond of friendship that is based on mutual trust, shared interests, solidarity, growing people-to-people contacts and cultural ties; and a shared belief in multilateralism coupled with strong political will from the leaders of both countries. There have been high-level relations between the political leaders of Rwanda and Japan.
HE President Paul Kagame participated in the summits of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). In January 2019, the President paid an official visit to Japan and held high-level meetings with His Majesty Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister ABE Shinzo.
The President also visited Japan in August 2019 to attend TICAD 7 in Yokohama and again had productive bilateral discussions with Prime Minister ABE. The President has also worked closely with former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide SUGA on the global fight against Covid-19 and mobilizing for equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries.
People-to-people exchanges and mutual support, from the highest level to the local community, have created mutual trust as the foundation of friendship between two countries. Apart from the high-level connection, at the local level, the city of Kobe has the partnership agreement with the city of Kigali for economic cooperation.
Hachimantai, the host city of Rwandan Olympic athletes in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, has a good relationship with Rwanda in the field of floriculture. Most importantly, Japan still remembers that we received warm messages and financial support from the Government and people of Rwanda during the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
Through these collaborations, governments and peoples work together, learn from each other, and have developed strong mutual trust between the two countries and peoples, which are irreplaceable achievements we have made.
In this regard, Japan has, over the past decade, sent more than 300 Japanese overseas volunteers who provide critical skills in a diverse number of sectors across Rwanda. They return to Japan after two years of experience and knowledge of the country as ambassadors who promote interpersonal relations between Rwanda and Japan.
Japan has been one of the reliable partners in Rwanda’s post-genocide reconstruction; and the implementation of Rwanda Vision 2020 and the current Vision 2050. Since 2005, JICA has been involved in 22 projects valued at over US$201 million. Between 2022 and 2026, Japan, through JICA, is expected to support 42 national projects and 3 integration projects in East Africa worth more than $337 million.
The projects focus on key development priorities for Rwanda in economic infrastructure, agriculture, energy, water and sanitation, education, ICT and private sector development. Notable projects include Rusumo – Kayonza road, Ngoma – Ramiro road, Nzove – Ntora main water transmission pipeline, power transmission lines and substations, WASAC utility turnaround with the project Kaizan approach and projects to promote basic education, early childhood development and nutrition. .
Relations between the two countries continue to thrive in the current challenging global context, including on climate change issues, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the coronavirus pandemic, and the maintenance of global peace and security.
Q. In what areas do you think we can focus our efforts more?
The most important engine of growth for Rwanda will be foreign direct investment. Rwanda is seeking to tap into Japanese private sector investment. The country has significant capital and renowned companies and financial institutions. Rwanda’s strategic investments in infrastructure such as the Kigali International Financial Center and Kigali Innovation City would greatly benefit from Japan’s resources and technology.
Our embassies in Kigali and Tokyo continue to work in tandem with the Rwanda Development Board to promote investment opportunities in Rwanda and woo Japanese investors. There is already good progress with Japanese companies collaborating with Rwandan private sector partners in the areas of ICT start-ups, innovation and technology development.
I hope to see more Japanese companies investing in Rwanda. By taking advantage of Rwanda’s pleasant climate and geography, some Japanese companies produce agricultural products and export them to American and European markets, which contributes to the Rwandan economy, and I am told that some of these products are very popular. It started small in volume, but has steadily increased in quantity and quality over the past few years.
Needless to say, Japan also continues to contribute to sustainable growth, poverty reduction and job creation in Rwanda by supporting “Economic Infrastructure Development”, “Agricultural Development”, “Improvement social services” and “Human resource development for sustainable growth and job creation”. .
Q. What do you want to accomplish as an ambassador to develop our relationship?
Before coming here about two years ago, I was ordered by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to strengthen our bilateral economic cooperation. My journey is still halfway towards this goal, and I intend to do my best to produce tangible results in this commemorative year of the 60th anniversary of the Friendship and the holding of TICAD 8 in August. .
According to my understanding, Japan’s technology, discipline and ethics as well as finance are what Rwanda wants to introduce and invite from Japan. I will work to build mutually supportive economic cooperation and win-win bilateral relations, which allow our two countries to enjoy the fruits of our mutual efforts and benefits.
The relationship between Rwanda and Japan is strong and enduring. We will continue to nurture it and see that it reaches even greater heights. The negotiation and signing of the Bilateral Investment and Double Taxation Treaty between Rwanda and Japan will be very important milestones for both countries. These will create an environment conducive to increased trade, investment and technology. Our countries will also work for a continuous interpersonal and cultural bond between our citizens.
Q. A message for readers?
We have a saying in Japanese, “Sanpo Yoshi”, which shows a business philosophy; which means a triple win for buyer, seller and society. As it is exactly the same with diplomacy, I would like to combine our efforts to achieve a treble for Japan, Rwanda and the world. Rwanda is full of motivated young people and women and I expect them to play a bigger role in the future. I believe that if we work together on our mutual trust which has been nurtured by many exchanges and collaborations at different levels over the past 60 years, we can make a big difference.
The celebration of 60 years of bilateral relations between Rwanda and Japan is a milestone for both countries and our people. This remains an exemplary relationship based on mutual trust, respect and solidarity. It continues to be productive and mutually beneficial to the peoples of Rwanda and Japan.
We encourage our people to reap the rewards of this blossoming friendship through increased business and commercial relations, people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges. We envision an increase in travel and tourism between the two countries.
Ambassador Rwamucyo and the Mayor of the city of Hachimantai with a gentian flower. / Courtesy
Ambassador Masahiro IMAI visits JICA’s irrigation project in Rwamagana district. / Courtesy