By Hudson Kuteesa
Visiting UK Trade envoy has rallied British companies to look at Africa as the next frontier for trade and partnerships as the country inches closer to its exit from the European Union, an economic and political union of 28 European countries.
The UK was expected to leave the bloc by today, October 31, but the EU earlier this week agreed to an extension until January 2020.
Lord Dolar Popat, the U.K Prime Minister’s Trade envoy to Rwanda and Uganda, made the remarks in Kigali at a cocktail dinner with British investors in the mining sector.
The investors were part of a delegation that was in Kigali for the East Africa and Central African Mining Forum.
The 14-man delegation of investors was tipped on the untapped mining investment opportunities in the country, according to Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board.
“We have showcased to them a number of investment opportunities, notably in the exploration and mining of minerals,” Gatare said. “We have shown them different blocks that they could participate in; and especially to partner with local Rwandan business people that are already engaged in mining but lack detailed investment capital to develop their businesses.”
During the forum, the Government also made efforts to sell the country as a hotspot for mining activities, particularly in mineral processing for value addition as well as provision of mining-support facilities like energy and infrastructure.
Lord Popat told his U.K counterparts and Rwandan officials that it is now time for British companies to be more outward looking beyond Europe.
He singled out Africa as the next frontier for trade engagements.
“It was nice to be part of it (the EU). I think time has come for us to leave because we have fantastic soft power, and are really global and very much outward looking,” he added.
“The problem that came in Britain was that our companies became too continental; they saw nothing beyond the European Union.
“Yet we have a whole world of 7 billion people. So, I think we are good (by leaving the EU); we are looking at Africa as the next frontier to work and engage with.”
“There is tremendous potential, in fact this region has all the natural resources we can think of for the next 100 years in terms of mining.”
Some of the British investors who talked to The New Times expressed interest in Rwanda’s mining sector.
For instance, Metalysis UK announced an investment outlay of $16 million (approximately Rwf14.7 billion) in the construction of a tantalum refinery in Rwanda’s Bugesera District.
The investment, and other initiatives, is expected to shore up the country’s mineral export revenues, which dropped by 22.8 per cent to $56 million in the first quarter of the year, down from $72.5 in the same period last year.
The decline was occasioned by the low demand for minerals on the international market.
Metalysis said that the construction of the refinery, which has the capacity to refine 120 tonnes of concentrate every month, will commence before the end of the year. It is expected to be complete by mid-next year.
“We have finished the design of the refinery. In the meantime, we also have been developing our mines as well so that we could have a stable feed,” Ray Power, the Chief Executive of Metalysis UK, told The New Times.
Mark Parker, the Executive Chairman of Andiamo Exploration Company, one of the mining companies represented at the event said; “I think of many opportunities in Rwanda for minerals; I don’t know enough about it but I am going to look at data available online, if I find something that suits us, I will come.”