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European Union External Action

Rwanda and the EU

Political relations between the European Union and Rwanda have been developing steadily since the independence of Rwanda in 1962, establishment of the presence of the European Union in Rwanda in the mid-1980s and formalisation of the relations in 1991 with the signature of an "accord de siege" with the Rwandan Government.

While initially the focus has been primarily on development cooperation, the signature of the ACP - EU Partnership Cotonou Agreement in 2000, created space for broadening of bilateral relations also to political, economic and trade areas through the establishment of a platform for regular political dialogue as well as other types of formal and informal consultations.

Political relations between the EU and Rwanda are part of a broader EU – Africa partnership anchored in the Joint Africa-Europe Strategy which was adopted by Heads of State and Government at the second EU-Africa Summit in 2007. The current Roadmap 201-2017 sets out concrete targets within 5 priority areas of cooperation between the EU and Africa agreed at the 4th EU-Africa Summit in 2014.

Economic and trade relations between the EU and Rwanda have been steadily increasing and the European Union is now Rwanda's biggest trading partner, accounting for about 15 per cent of its total trade (2015). EU exports to Rwanda are mainly manufactured products such as machinery, transport equipment and chemicals. EU imports from Rwanda are dominated by primary products, especially agricultural goods and vegetable products. The EU is also Rwanda's biggest foreign investor. EU private capital stock represents almost a quarter of the total foreign capital stock in Rwanda.

The Export Helpdesk provides all information to existing or potential exporters from Rwanda and the East African Community (EAC) for access to the EU single market.

The EU and the EAC have finalized negotiations for a conclusion of the EU – EAC comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which Rwanda and Kenya signed on 1 September 2016, with other EAC members yet to follow. The agreement covers trade in goods and development cooperation. It also contains an extensive chapter on fisheries – aiming mainly to reinforce cooperation on the sustainable use of resources - and foresees further negotiations on services and trade-related rules in future.

The EU development cooperation with Rwanda is based on the 2014 - 2020 National Indicative Programme for Rwanda, which outlines main priority areas for allocation of up 460 Million Euro under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) during the 7 year period. The three main areas identified jointly with the Government of Rwanda are:

  • Energy and infrastructure, where the focus of interventions is on power generation through renewable energy, access to electricity, energy efficiency and sustainable management of biomass
  • Rural development and food security, where the focus of interventions is on the improvement of food and nutrition security and agricultural intensification
  • Governance, civil society and human rights, where the focus of interventions is on strengthening of public accountability and democratic governance, development of vibrant civil society and respect for human rights

About 80% of EU development assistance under the 11th EDF is allocated through sector budget support programmes. The rest is allocated through calls for proposals and tenders. In parallel, Rwanda also benefits from support allocated through development programs of EU member states and has access to EU regional funds as well as thematic and global budget lines for support of research and innovationeducation, training, youth and sport, human rights, and others.

The EU has been a long supporter of Rwanda in the area of rural development, agriculture, social protection, environment and natural resources. The 4 largest programs funded by the EU before 2016 have been Sector Budget Support to Decentralised Agriculture (40 Million Euro), Agricultural Intensification (15.5 Million Euro), Nutrition (30 Million Euro) and Social Protection (20 Million Euro). A total of 8 Million Euro was also allocated to support the land registration programme of Rwanda. Via the Water Facility instrument, EU also provided financial support to different water projects, including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene projects - a key element of a successful strategy to combat undernutrition.

In June 2016 EU and Rwanda have signed a new financing agreement for allocation of €200 million as EU budget support to the transformation of the Rwandan agriculture. The funding supports government programmes to improve nutrition among rural communities, expand the number of food-secure households, make farmers more efficient in cropping patterns and land use, and extend the irrigation network to cover more households. It also helps to spread agro-forestry in hilly and terraced areas, target job opportunities among export-oriented agricultural producers and processors, and provide suitable loans to farmers.

The EU funding is linked to the EU – Rwanda policy dialogue on agriculture, whereby EU co-chairs Agriculture Sector Working Group (ASWG) and Sector Wide Approach Group (SWAP) and participates in cross-sector Food and Nutrition Technical Working Group, and in the Sector Working Group on Social Protection and the one on Environment.

The EU is one of the main development partners of Rwanda in the area of energy. In 2016, as part as the 11th EDF, the EU and Rwanda have signed a 200 Million Euro cooperation programme to support the implementation of the Rwanda’s National Energy Policy and Energy Sector Strategic Plan. The objectives are to increase generation capacity (in particular through renewable energy), access to electricity and energy efficiency and to achieve sustainable management of biomass. The EU support includes 156 Million Euro for budget support and €21 million for capacity development, technical assistance and studies, as well as €23 million allocated to the "Reduction of Losses on the Kigali Electricity Grid" project.

Previous support includes EU financing through the EU - Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund towards the development of regional hydropower projects Ruzizi I, II and III (Rwanda-DRC-Burundi) and Rusumo (Rwanda-Burundi-Tanzania). The EU has also used the ACP-EU Energy Facility to introduce electricity in 300 Rwandan schools, build 2 MW hydropower plant and currently support the “Rent-to-own solar home systems” initiative which aims to deliver 49,000 solar home systems and 1,000 Solar systems for schools through a partnership between EDCL and Mobisol.

Rwanda also benefits from financing under the global Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), to which the EU contributes through its Technical Assistance Facility. Other EU funded opportunities for Rwanda in the area of energy include the Africa Investment Facility which provides grants to mobilize loan investments and Electrify, which offers reimbursable grants for quasi-equity instruments, subordinated debt, working capital facilities, development finance and guarantees, and other type of investment facilities.

European Union supports Rwanda’s objectives of an increased and improved mobility of people and goods, more affordable transport for a better access to essential services, good quality infrastructure and improved safety for goods and passengers. As part of this effort, the EU has financed upgrade and rehabilitation of 700 km of rural feeder roads between 2013 and 2016 with a contribution of €40 million. The EU also supported the rehabilitation of the Kigali-Gatuna road (€34.7 million), which forms a part of the Northern Corridor linking Rwanda with Uganda and Kenya, and co-finances rehabilitation of the 208 km Kagitumba-Kayonza–Rusumo road with a 20 Million Euro contribution from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund via African Development Bank. The EU financial support is coupled with EU – Rwanda policy dialogue on transport.

Infrastructure is also a major focus in a regional programme 45 Million Euro regional programme implemented by the Communauté Economique des Pays des Grands Lacs (CEPGL) in which main activities include construction of the provisional access road to Ruzizi III site as well as construction and supervision of cross-border and urban roads in Gisenyi-Goma, Cyangugu-Bukavu and Bujumbura-Uvira.

Civil society and respect for human rights are integral part of EU – Rwanda Relations in all areas of cooperation.  The EU therefore offers its financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to ensure their meaningful participation in development, implementation and monitoring of national policies. In parallel, the EU's support of civil society organizations through grants allocated under the 'European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights' and other thematic programs helps to contribute to awareness raising and promotion of human rights issues in the society in line with the 2012 European Commission Communication 'The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with civil society in external relations'. This policy proposes an enhanced and more strategic engagement with civil society in partner countries, with a particular focus on local CSOs. It also calls for a more strategic approach at country level for the EU and its countries through the development of EU Roadmaps for engagement with civil society in each specific country.

The EU Roadmap for Rwanda has been compiled through an extensive consultation process led by the EU Delegation, in collaboration with the EU countries and CSOs. The purpose of the Roadmap is to establish a common strategic framework for the EU Delegation and the EU countries with a view to improving the impact, predictability and visibility of EU action.

The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) offers needs based humanitarian assistance to Rwanda in line with the implementation of EU's Humanitarian Implementation Plan for the Great Lakes Region. In this context, the EU is together with EU Member States one of the main financial and technical supporters of UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) globally and together with the UNHCR and the Government of Rwanda helps to provide assistance to the refugees from the Great Lakes region residing in the country.

The Delegation of the EU to Rwanda, in close cooperation with the missions of EU countries, supports regular public diplomacy activities to reach out to Rwandans in urban and rural areas in an effort to increase the knowledge and understanding of the EU, create links between European and Rwandans and increase the visibility of EU relations with Rwanda. Some examples of our regular activities are:

Europe Day

Each 9 May Europe Day celebrates peace and unity in Europe as it marks the anniversary of the historic 1950 Schuman Declaration, which set out a vision for a new form of European political cooperation which sought to make war between European nations unthinkable. Europe Day is celebrated in Kigali.

European Film Festival

Every year, the European Union Film Festival gives Rwandans a chance to experience Europe's diverse and rich film heritage. Whether highlighting historic events, political subjects or personal dilemmas, European films are intellectually stimulating and culturally engaging. The festival runs for one week and is organised by the Delegation in cooperation with the Diplomatic Missions and cultural institutes of EU countries. 

Public Discussion Series

The public discussion series are organised roughly every quarter by the Delegation. The discussions feature different panellists from government, civil society, private sector, EU Delegation and EU member states depending on the theme of the debate. In the past, the discussions stimulated debates around topics such as media, regional integration, or education.

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