The President of the East African nation of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has hailed the relationship with Barbados as both countries seek to strengthen ties in several areas.
Kagame, who arrived in Barbados late Friday for an official one-day visit, said the deepening ties have led to discussions related to travel and visa waivers for both countries.
Speaking during a press conference on Saturday he noted that direct travel between Africa and the Caribbean is critical as there is a huge interest in persons from Africa connecting with the region.
“We are already too late in a sense, but it is never too late to connect to make friends and partnerships, so we definitely want to do that…” Kagame said.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who also pointed to the relationship with Rwanda said the partnership is one that can pay dividends in the fight against COVID-19.
The Prime Minister said she was particularly interested in the establishment of a COVID-19 manufacturing plant in the African nation.
Mottley then announced that Minister of Industry, Science, and Technology Davidson Ishmael will be traveling to Rwanda with the hope of expanding investment opportunities.
Last year, Rwanda announced it would house a vaccine manufacturing plant using the mRNA technology of the German start-up BioNTech, which co-developed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It is hoped that the construction starts no later than mid-2022.
“Our first interest of course is in seeing what potential there is with the vaccine manufacturing entity that Rwanda is establishing, recognizing that the vaccine for COVID is just one small commodity of what that manufacturing capacity can be for.”
The Prime Minister also said the partnership will result in a significant boost in Barbados’ technology and sciences sector.
“Barbados has produced 6,000 graduates in the area of science from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies here in the last five years and while there is absolute mobility in teaching, we recognize that that is not the only purpose that people would want to use a science degree and therefore we have a solemn obligation to being able to build a platform for biotechnology and ICT and science and technology generally.”
“Against that backdrop, we have agreed this morning to the signing of the Cooperation Agreement to a number of things. Our two countries had a Double Taxation Agreement that was signed some years ago with the ratification I was told is now in place. We will start discussions towards a Bilateral Investment Treaty as well as towards a Multilateral Air Services Agreement. I think all of us agree and we are coming closer I hope to its resolution that there must be air connectivity between the continent of Africa and the Caribbean region…”
Kagame, who just concluded a three-day official visit to Jamaica, said Mottley will visit Rwanda in June as the African nation celebrates 60 years of political independence.
He will also be hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June, with delegates from the 54 members states in attendance.