Singapore and Rwanda enjoy a special relationship on many different fronts. The two countries may be continents apart, but they share many similarities. Being smaller countries surrounded by much larger neighbors, both countries have constantly strived for positive diplomacy and economic integration in the region to foster better relations with the international community.
Singapore and Rwanda established diplomatic relations on 18 March 2005, and have conducted a host of trade agreements since then. Visa restrictions were lifted for nationals of Singapore and Rwanda when travelling between the two countries, and the High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda in Singapore was officially opened in 2008. An agreement to avert double taxation was signed between the two countries in August 2014 in order to facilitate bilateral trade.
Singapore and Rwanda have also hosted various bilateral exchanges in recent times. Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Rwandan President Paul Kagame met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland in January 2017, where both countries exchanged views on pertinent global and regional economic developments and reaffirmed bilateral ties. President Kagame made his second visit to Singapore in September 2015, where he held important bilateral talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and participated in the annual Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix race, where he also met with Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam. President Kagame also met Prime Minister Lee on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) 2013 summit, where the two countries reaffirmed strong relations and close cooperation. The two countries have also shown mutual support for each other’s involvements in various international committees. In 2012, Singapore supported Rwanda’s bid to hold one of the rotating seats in the UN Security Council, and Rwanda continuously supported Singapore’s candidature at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Trade, Investments and Development
Singapore and Rwanda have completed negotiations for a bilateral investment treaty (Mutual Protection and Promotion of Investments) and air services agreement. These agreements will be signed in October 2016.
Singapore is also Rwanda’s largest trading partner in the world, with approximately US$150 million worth of foreign direct investments made by Singapore companies in Rwanda. Rwanda exports to Singapore have tripled in the past 3 years to over S$26 million in 2016. Since 2012, five business exchanges have occurred between Rwanda and Singapore, which comprised of three delegations from Singapore and two delegations from Rwanda. Over the last five years, at least a dozen Singaporean companies with total investments amounting to over US$100 million have been registered in Rwanda.
Various capacity-building projects in Rwanda have been spearheaded by the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) in partnership with the Rwandan Government. Of notable mention is Singapore’s contribution of advisory services in the design and implementation of the Kigali City Master Plan, which is aimed at improving Kigali’s infrastructure and developing the city from an economic perspective. Singapore has provided valuable guidance in the development of Rwanda’s aviation and technological industries as well as assisting the Rwandan government in reforming the Rwandan Social Security Board (RSSB). The Singapore Government also works closely with the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) on trade and investment promotion, and with Rwanda’s Workforce Development Authority (WDA) on workforce development projects and TVET programs.
Tourism and cultural exchanges
People-to-people exchanges and tourist visits between Rwanda and Singapore have been steadily increasing since diplomatic relations were established. Singaporean companies are well on their way to investing and making their mark in Rwanda. Many Singaporeans regularly visit Rwanda for its forests, volcanoes and national parks, as well as to participate in its environmentally-conscious Mountain Gorilla trekking programs. The last decade has seen a steady increase in the number of Singaporean visitors to Rwanda, from dozens in 2010 to at least 300 in 2016.
Rwanda also participated in Singapore’s 2015 Chingay Parade as an expression of Rwanda’s heartiest congratulations to the city-state on its 50th year of Independence.