Investment in RwandaThe commonly held belief on Chinese investment in African countries is that China is only interested in exploiting the continent for its mineral resources and establishing a sycophantic relationship with some of the world’s most vulnerable developing nations. However, the investment in Rwanda makes little sense if short term profit and influence are the country’s only motives. Rwanda lacks the natural resources that its neighbors have. Furthermore, its population will only yield a small number of consumers of Chinese goods in the future. Motivations aside, China’s investment is helping to develop the country in ways that will positively impact the lives of the country’s poor.

Rwanda’s Rapidly Improving Infrastructure

The investment in Rwanda has had no bigger impact than in the area of infrastructure with projects that include the construction of hotels, schools, hospitals and multi-thousand capacity stadiums in the underdeveloped eastern province. China also constructed 80 percent of the country’s roads, beginning with a loan of 250 million yuan in 2009. This equals about $36,040,200 million.

In the short term, the Chinese have reduced the cost of construction and have created jobs for local people according to Qinghai Liu, A Chinese expert in the research on China’s investment in Africa. Evidence exists to support her claim as well. One example is the construction of the Administrative Office Complex located in the capital city of Kigali. The Chinese builders employ some 260 Rwandan employees and provide them training in construction skills.

China is also funding an agriculture technology center to help improve Rwanda’s farming. Construction has also extended into real estate. Chinese enterprises are building 4,500 villas and apartments in Vision City for an emerging middle class. Recently, the Chinese embassy donated building materials for housing for the most vulnerable families.

The Tradeoff

The Rwandan government has found a willing investment partner in China whose aid is not preconditioned on democratization, liberalization and privatization. Rwanda has even modeled its development on China, lacking an emphasis on personal and social freedoms. Should Rwanda be unable to pay its debts, it is unclear what China might do to make good on its investment. Sri Lanka is the only country to have defaulted on its loans with China in the past. China seized the economically vital port of Hambantota in a response that remains controversial to this day.

Though there are obvious political and social concerns that come with the investment in Rwanda, the poor are benefiting. There is evidence that China is playing a concrete role in helping to lift Rwandans out of poverty. In big and small ways, China is helping Rwanda in its development, and not just the rich are benefiting.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Google

Awaaz.De, a Hindi phrase meaning “provide a voice,” is a novel technological initiative that originated in Ahmedabad, India. The platform gives farmers advice related to agriculture, fluctuating sale prices and harvest and enables them to communicate with each other and share vital information about market changes.

Agriculture is an essential primary sector industry that represents a considerable source of income for people in developing countries. The agricultural industry offers employment to large numbers of people who are unable to obtain jobs in the secondary and tertiary sectors because they lack technical knowledge, skills or relevant education.

India alone contributes approximately 7.68 percent of the world’s agriculture output. Its vast contribution underscores the importance of constant innovation in the farming industry, better agricultural techniques and market strategies that will optimize productivity and profit.

The founders of Awaaz.De wanted to create a user-friendly interface. They recognized that individuals in disadvantaged societal groups often have limited access to the Internet and smartphone technology. This lack of connection is a consequence of both the priciness of these services and their limited penetration into rural communities with small consumer bases.

A network for farmers, Awaaz.De can be accessed on elementary mobile phones and depends on voice communication. It enables barriers such as language and location to be overcome and facilitates a factual transfer of information that can help farmers increase crop yields and income.

It also enables organizations such as Farm Scientist to liaise with farmers regardless of their language or level of education. Illiteracy is a rampant issue in developing countries, pereptuating as a result of expensive tuition fees, little emphasis on further education and low school attendance due to poor health or household obligations.

According to Neil Patil, chief executive officer of Awaaz.De, “These are exciting times for Awaaz.De as we grow and diversify our customer base in India and abroad, collaborating with like-minded organizations and leveraging our expertise and the immense potential of ICTs for social impact.”

It is believed that every dollar of investment in the technology yields $10 because of increases in agricultural productivity. Awaaz.De symbolizes a promising start to an age of technological innovations that will benefit all individuals, regardless of their income or access to sophisticated technology.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr