H.E. JEAN DE DIEU UWIHANGANYE
HIGH COMMISSIONER OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA
DEAN OF AFRICAN GROUP OF AMBASSADORS IN SINGAPORE
1. Excellency, how would you describe your duties as the current Dean of the African continent in Singapore?
Broadly, my duties entail coordinating with other Heads of Missions from Africa in joint efforts aimed towards promoting trade and investments, and in the organisation of events such as Africa Singapore Business Forum and Africa Day. Africa Day brings together around 300 business people from various sectors to showcase Africa’s potential and a wide range of opportunities that ASEAN countries could tap into.
2. Honorable Dean, what is your take on multilateral relations between Africa and the ASEAN region?
Well, in regard to that question, I can only give you the perspective of the country that I represent. Rwanda and ASEAN countries are members of different international organisations such as the UN and Interpol. Essentially, our relations with ASEAN countries are excellent and that is presumably the same with other African countries, especially those with diplomatic missions in Singapore.
3. High Commissioner, after Asia, Africa is the largest populated continent of our planet, making it an interesting and potential market for foreign brands and companies. Which would you say are the types of products and services of highest demand in said territory? How do you think the two regions could best create synergies on a macro scale basis, to the advantage of both Africa and Asia?
I would rather talk about what we can offer as a continent. Africa is replete with huge ore reserves however many of these have either not been prospected or simply remain unexploited. Additionally, our continent has a huge potential in tourism and education sectors. Building, maintaining and modernising trade‐related infrastructure such as railway systems and ports will also be a crucial factor in the operationalision of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which is expected to significantly increase intra African trade. We would also be much more better off if we saw more innovations in our agriculture sector. In regard to value addition, African countries have been exporting commodities mostly in their raw form but with value addition, our products could generate more revenues. So, these are some of the areas that in which we can partner with ASEAN countries to further expand our economies. That said, more synergies and interactions could bring further benefits. Therefore, we should expand the platforms that enable joint discussions to facilitate B2B interactions between African and ASEAN countries.
4. Excellency, during the month of May is the celebration of Africa Day. Please share the historical and political importance of said date for the African people and its diaspora?
Africa Day was first celebrated on 25th May 1963. At the time, two-thirds of African states were free and leaders from these countries gathered in Addis Ababa at the headquarters of the Organisation of the African Unity which subsequently became the African Union. Attendees had gathered to write a Charter which laid the organisation’s goals, help liberate those still under colonial rule and unify the free African states. They declared the day Africa Freedom Day.
Today, colonial rule is now more but the continent is still working towards unification.
The establishment of a regional free trade area and opening up of the skies are some of the attempts towards that direction. Our continent may still face some challenges, but unquestionably we are now a continent on the rise and increasingly, Africa is speaking with one voice in pursuit of stability, more developmental opportunities and more balanced partnerships. As Africa in Singapore, we have tailored the Africa Day to serve as a platform that enables business networking and showcasing of opportunities that the continent offers. This approach has started paying dividends and increasingly companies are reaching out for insights on the opportunities discussed
during the event. Besides, Africa Day is also an occasion for Africans to meet and exchange on opportunities available in Singapore and Asia in general and how to they can harness those opportunities to benefit their content.
5. The Diplomatic Network (Asia) was recently initiated as a media-networking platform, catered for foreign diplomats in the ASEAN region. How do you believe DNA can be of assistance to the diplomatic community stationed in Singapore and what would be your word of advice to our entity, moving forward ?
When it comes to media coverage, Africa barely features in Southeast Asian media and the creation of DNA has come at an opportune time, and hopefully it will help to address that problem and specifically, I hope it will help diplomats to reach a wider audience in ASEAN countries