It was a dream project cementing Kagame-Blair partnership and personal friendship. The deal was signed in Kigali in November 2009 – with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair personally witnessing the event. And it was, at the the time, the biggest investment in Rwanda ever – US$250 million – to enable Rwanda to produce 20 million litres of biofuel annually from jatropha plants. And two companies – the UK-based Eco Positive Ltd and Eco-fuel Global LLC from the United States – would make this happen. Blair had brought his friend Kagame a game-changing investment.
Kagame and Blair were very happy. Why not? This project aimed to achieve no less than six objectives:
- Increased fuel security and reduced oil imports;
- Food security through production of fertilizer as a by-product of the biofuel and increased agricultural yields through intercropping;
- Direct employment of 6,500 jobs;
- Promote a more environmentally-friendly transport;
- Use marginal and unproductive 10,000 hectares not suitable for agriculture to grow jatropha;
- Turn Rwanda into the regional powerhouse for biofuels.
“Eco-Fuel Global this week entered a groundbreaking agreement with the Government of Rwanda estimated to be worth in excess of $250m; to produce bio-fuels from Jatropha Curcas…The signing ceremony held at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) head office was witnessed by the former British Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, whose office supports this project.”
Nicknamed Kagame’s cheerleader-in-chief, Blair became the champion of the US$250 million deal. Kagame readily threw his fellow Rwandans under the bus – he provided 10,000 hectares in a country where the population density (people per sq. km of land area) is 471. That is how Eco Positive (Rwanda) Ltd was born.
So what became of this mega US$250 million investment? Where is Eco Positive Rwanda now, and where is its biofuels? How much has the biofuel reduced oil imports in Rwanda? And where are the 6,500 jobs?
Fast-forward to June 23, 2014 – this is the date when the directors of Eco Positive Rwanda filed for bankruptcy in the U.K. as shown in “Striking off application by a company” attached here.
The company was dissolved later in the year on October 28, 2014 as indicated by the company registrar in the U.K.
We can’t know for sure what happened between 2009 and 2014 when Eco Positive Rwanda collapsed. Rwanda parliament is dead and therefore cannot hold Kagame accountable. In this unpredictable environment, many investors go to Rwanda believing that it is a good place to invest. They get a nasty shock – some mysteriously lose their businesses. Others are illegally seized. For greater detail about the real investment climate in Rwanda see my book, Kagame’s Economic Mirage.
Somewhere along the way, the whole thing fell apart. The Eco Positive left, and Rwanda went on its own. The then Scientific and Technological Research Institute (later changed to National Industrial Research and Development Agency), continued with the biofuel idea. Its own pilot plant for biofuel mass production soon led to a diesel station project and a bus run on clean energy – all of which came to a dead end.
The East African has recently brought us to date, even though its account avoids talking about the US$250 million Blair-Kagame phantom investment. The newspaper restricts itself to the National Industrial Research and Development Agency’s biofuel pilot plant as follows:
“Taxpayers are losing unknown amounts of money in non-operational industrial equipment of the biodiesel production project whose fate still hangs in the balance four years later. More than $35 million was initially invested in setting up the pilot plant for biofuel mass production plant, a diesel station and a bus, but these facilities have not been put to use in a long time…While projections showed the country had potential to grow a significant amount of bio-crops like Jatropha to sustain production,…it was later discovered that the climate is not suitable for the crops needed.”
Can you believe this? How is possible that, after all these years, the Rwandan regime discovered that the country’s climate is not suitable for jatropha? Can Kagame explain this loss of taxpayers’ money running into millions of dollars? Did Blair who championed the US$250 million phantom investment acknowledge his role? Honestly, when will the Rwandan nightmare under the rule of strongman Kagame end?