Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited Rwanda last week on invitation by the Rwandan President to sign a comprehensive agreement to strengthen trade ties between the two nations.
President Kagame of Rwanda has been globe-trotting since the beginning of this year, cementing ties with big economies, the most recent being France and the USA.
While details of the deal remain scanty, President Jonathan’s delegation, which included a dozen of the biggest names in corporate Nigeria, signaled that the West African leader viewed the visit as a serious opportunity to do business.
The delegation included Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Nigeria’s largest industrial group, which deals in food processing, cement manufacturing and freight services; Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, managing director of Access Bank; Jim Ovia, founder of Visafone, a communications firm; and Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings, a multi-million dollar African investment company.
Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, is particularly keen on attracting Nigerian investment into key sectors such as banking, agriculture and manufacturing.
The country is cultivating new international trading partners to help build the economy as the world slowly slides into another recession.
“We already have some Nigerian investors talking to the Rwanda Development Board,” said Minister of Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba. RDB said it was targeting at least $500 million in new investments both local and foreign in 2011.
“Every day, the boundaries are becoming thinner and thinner… Leaders must continue to discuss to see how we can accelerate economic development. That’s why I came with a few businessmen,” said President Jonathan.
“We are talking about RwandAir having an opportunity to fly to most of our cities to encourage that level of interaction,” President Jonathan added.
RwandAir, the national carrier, is planning new routes to West Africa, with Lagos as the first likely point of entry.
At present, Access Bank and insurance company Sonarwa are the only major Nigerian investments in the country.
Other Nigerian businesses in Kigali are Food Concepts Plc, a company dealing in retail food business and Oando Plc, one of the biggest energy companies in Nigeria.
“In the next 3-5 years, we should be able to invest about $10-15 million in Rwanda.
The country is strategically located between the big countries of East Africa,” said Deji Akinyanju, founder and CEO of Food Concepts.