Kagame’s Tourism Earnings Remain Comparatively Low Despite His Mega Investments

By David Himbara

General Paul Kagame has spent a fortune on tourism infrastructures. RwandAir has consumed at least US$1 billion. Kigali Convention Center swallowed over US$500 million. And now, under the new scheme, Qatar has bought a 60% stake in the US$1.3 billion New Bugesera International Airport (NBIA) while Rwanda retains 40 percent. This means, therefore, that Rwanda’s share of 40 percent is US$520 million, while Qatari share of 60 percent amounts to US$780 million.

Where Rwanda will get the US$520 million to pour into the new airport remains unclear.

Under previous arrangements, NBIA was to be built by Mota Engil, an international construction and infrastructure management company. Mota Engil had a concession agreement under which the company was to build and operate NBIA for 25 years. The airport was to cost US$818 million. Kagame has dumped Mota Engil and entered into new agreement with Qatar thereby plunging Rwanda into a new massive debt.

Despite Kagame’s massive investments into the sector, Rwanda’s earnings from tourism remain comparatively low.

Here are the latest World Bank data on tourism earnings in eastern and southern Africa:

  • Rwanda — US$616 million.
  • Zambia — US$653 million.
  • Botswana — US$704 million.
  • Uganda — US$940 million.
  • Sudan — US$1 billion.
  • Kenya — US$1.5 billion.
  • Tanzania — US$2.2 billion.
  • Ethiopia — US$2.5 billion.
  • South Africa — US$9.6 billion.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s US$400 million Eurobond borrowed to build the Kigali Convention Center will mature in 2023 when the repayment begins. Stay tuned.