Rwanda has announced that it has done what South Africa walked away from at the 11th hour – sign a nuclear power station deal with Russian power parastatal Rosatom.
And although it remains unreported what the Rosatom contract will cost Rwanda – most likely a trillion-dollar figure which is why South Africa in the end dissed the deal – FTW Online has learned that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have also signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia.
The news from Rwanda, which includes Russia undertaking to set up a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Kigali, comes on the eve of this week’s first outing of a new bilateral forum to be held in the Black Sea port of Sochi, famous for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has confirmed his attendance at the Russia-Africa Forum on 23-24 October where he will most likely be royally feted, having just handed Russia a licence to print money through a deal that will probably burden Rwanda’s tax payers into perpetuity.
Whether South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will also attend the forum, since he was the head of state that refused to sign a deal his predecessor was grinning about whenever its monstrous consequences for South Africa were raised, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile the Rwanda-Rosatom contract is widely touted as sure confirmation of Russia’s intent to play a much larger role in Africa, going toe-to-toe with peer Asian investment major, China.
The deal was first mooted last December and took centre stage in May during a high-powered Russian delegation visiting Kigali. It is now confirmed that Rosatom will proceed with the construction of a power station that will probably only be completed by 2024.
Rwandan trade and industry minister Soroya Hakuziyaremye has since said that the deal also symbolises his country’s intention to strengthen business ties with Russia.
For what it’s worth, Russian exports to Rwanda shot up from $20 million in 2017 to $31 million last year, mainly on the back of iron, steel, machinery, fertiliser and cereal.
Rwanda in turn traded around $1 million in exports with Russia in 2017, a figure that has thankfully risen to $3.6 million at last count.
Significantly, Russia’s combined export trade to the entire East African Community, a trade bloc that has Rwanda as a major partner along with countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and lost-cause newcomer, South Sudan, amounts to $500 million, up from $439.8 million in 2018.
Given the massive disparities in trade data, Hakuziyaremye should maybe ask himself if the ties he referred to aren’t perhaps ties that bind?