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Grant Shapps

Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Part of FCDO Outreach

14th September 2015 London, UK

Working towards the future in Rwanda

Last week I visited Rwanda for the first time.  It gave me the opportunity to see the remarkable progress that this country has made since the devastating 1994 genocide.  In my joint role at the Foreign Office and DFID, I was able to explore the full breadth of the UK’s relationship with Rwanda – a relationship that is not just about development, but also trade and a wide range of other mutual interests.

Over the course of two days, I met government ministers and officials, investors, businesspeople, project implementers, and of course Rwandan citizens themselves.  I was struck by their level of ambition and desire to push Rwanda towards the future as quickly as possible.

shapps Rwanda wreath

Of course, it is impossible to talk about the future without discussing the past.  My time at the Kigali Genocide Memorial was deeply moving.  It is extraordinary that a place that reflects such sorrow can also be one of hope, helping the next generation understand their history while becoming ambassadors for peace and reconciliation. 

Travelling outside the capital, I was struck by Rwanda’s beauty.  It was fantastic to talk directly to people benefiting from UK Aid and see the incredible, positive impact that this can have on the lives of some of the world’s poorest.  UK Aid is helping to provide a way out of poverty for thousands of vulnerable people and this is something of which we can be immensely proud.  I was particularly struck by a conversation with an older, disabled man, who was hugely grateful to his government for providing him the opportunity to work for cash.  It was back-breaking work, using a pick-axe to cut through volcanic rock to build a local road – but he was so happy to be able to earn, to work, and to contribute to his country’s future.

Grant Shapps Rwanda                    shapps Rwanda sqaure 2

But aid by itself is not enough to end the scourge of poverty.  It is through private sector and economic development that jobs are created and prosperity grows.  My discussions with business leaders highlighted the opportunities open to British business in Rwanda.  Opportunities that can be mutually beneficial to both countries and an area where we hope to expand cooperation over the coming years.  

It is no secret that the UK-Rwanda relationship has had a difficult summer.  But the two countries have had a unique partnership since the period immediately after the genocide.  We are proud to have stood alongside Rwanda as it achieved such success, and while there may be bumps in the road, that partnership will be enduring.  As in all strong relationships, there will be challenges: times when we need to share and talk through our concerns, compromise, or agree to differ.  But the UK-Rwanda friendship will deepen and strengthen.  I look forward to a bright future for both countries.