Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame played host to two world leaders Monday when China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the central African country.
The Chinese President, who is on an Africa tour to cement China’s role as one of the continent’s closest economic and diplomatic allies, held discussions with Kagame, the present chairman of the African Union on China-Africa cooperation.
From Rwanda, he will also visit Mauritius, meaning his trip will span almost every corner of sub-Saharan Africa, where China’s economic clout, and strategic ambitions are growing by the year.
President Xi and PM Modi will travel to South Africa to attend the BRICS summit later this week. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is expected to participate in the summit on July 25.
It is the first visit to Rwanda for both leaders. As President Xi departed, Modi arrived in Rwanda on a five-day, three-nation tour of Africa.
The Indian premier held talks with Kagame on India’s investment in key sectors of the country and announced that India would open a High Commission in Rwanda, according to The Times of India.
During the trip, PM Modi will also travel to a village in Rwanda’s eastern province and gift 200 cows as India’s contribution to Kagame’s flagship “Girinka” one cow, per family program, the newspaper said.
While India is seeking to boost investment and trade opportunities with Rwanda, China’s interests in the country leave India trailing in its wake.
China is by far Rwanda’s largest trading partner and contractor – with 70% of roads in the country built by Chinese companies.
China has invested more than $400,000 million in 61 projects and joint ventures over the last 12 years, Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda, Rao Hongwei, said.
Xi Jinping said in a statement that, although the two countries had established diplomatic relations since 1971, his visit was to strengthen bilateral ties, which could increase China’s investments in Rwanda.
Rwanda has increased its regional and global influence under Kagame’s leadership and continues to set an example for countries who face similar tasks of development, the Chinese President said.
“Despite the vast geographic distance and differences in size, system, and culture between China and Rwanda, our peoples enjoy a deep traditional friendship.
“Both our two countries endured great sufferings in history. That is why we cherish the national stability, ethnic unity and economic development we now enjoy, and take pride in what we have accomplished along the way,” Xi said in the statement.
Xi highlighted the construction of Rwanda’s national stadium and one of its technology school as examples of the positive impact that Chinese firms have played in growing the country’s manufacturing sector.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner, overtaking the United States nearly a decade ago. Bilateral trade reached a record high of $220 billion in 2014, official statistics show.
Chinese leaders have always made a point of visiting African nations regularly and early during their time in power.
When he assumed the presidency in 2013, Xi also chose Africa as part of his maiden journey abroad and went on to visit the continent two more times during his first term.
Earlier this year, the IMF stated that Rwanda is the third fastest growing economy in Africa, although human rights groups report restricted freedom of speech in the country.
Steven Jiang and Ben Westcott contributed to this report