If it is a point of what goes around comes around, I will start by letting you know that one of the first vehicles to come to Rwanda in history, if not the first, was a Volkswagen.
I remember when I was a kid, before my family and many other people’s families were thrown out of the country, at the age of four or something like that, I used to see a Volkswagen called the Beetle which had an engine where we are not used to having it – where the boot is supposed to be.
But now we have Volkswagen back here in Rwanda, being assembled and in the near future being made here.
It is a pleasure for me to join you today to launch Volkswagen’s operations in our country.
This investment was announced about eighteen months ago, if I recollect well. I know some might find it hard to believe that German cars, as we are used to calling them, could really be built in Rwanda. Yet today, the first vehicles are rolling off the assembly line.
Thank you for those who have been working hard to make it possible. I wish therefore to congratulate Volkswagen, and all the partners involved, for moving this so quickly.
This facility undoubtedly represents a new chapter in Rwanda’s journey of economic transformation. There are also positive implications for Africa more generally. This gives me an additional good story to tell in a couple of days, when we have an African Union Summit, which I happen to chair this time around. It will be a pleasure to tell people this good story. It is a good story for Africa. Let me highlight some of the most significant elements.
First, not only can global brands assemble high-quality products in Africa, in Rwanda, they can also find customers here. The assembly plant is just one part of the investment. Equally prominent are training, sales, after-care, and innovative mobility solutions for the African market. In fact, the majority of the new jobs for our citizens are going to be created through these types of accompanying services.
Africa is not merely positioning itself as a new low-cost hub to manufacture goods for export. African consumers will also be among the biggest contributors to growth in global demand in the years ahead. Going forward, I think the companies that succeed in Africa will have the kind of integrated vision of supply and demand that Volkswagen is showing.
Secondly, this operation reminds us of the importance of working regionally. To our Kenyan friends, brothers and sisters, who are a key part of this international team, we welcome you and thank you. In fact, Rwanda and Kenya will be benefitting each other directly and with Volkswagen right in the middle of that mix. In turn, the technologies being pioneered in Rwanda are intended to be deployed throughout the company’s operations in Africa.
We are indeed delighted that a Rwandan software firm, Awesomity Lab, was selected by Volkswagen to design the application that will power the innovative ride-sharing mobility solution. This is indeed very welcome and we want to encourage our young people, and many others, to be behind the kind of innovations that will work for the many industries that will be developed here.
By the way, I used to think – or at least I want to believe – that I know many people around, especially the useful people. But I didn’t know these young people. So I am happy to be introduced to you, or the other way around. I think we have a lot of work ahead to do together, and I thank you for being behind this effort.
In the medium-term, the only way for us in East Africa is to move up the industrial value chain, from assembly to manufacturing, is to build an integrated, regional manufacturing base. When we shift from a logic of competition to one of cooperation – or the better way to put it is to fuse the two: competition and cooperation – when they are brought together, everyone gains. Success is about partnership and leveraging our strengths.
The third point is about the importance of anticipating future trends. The old model of individual car ownership is not sustainable, especially when those vehicles burn fossil fuels. It leads to environmental degradation and traffic gridlock. The cars produced here, today and in the near future, will be hybrids. And fully electric models will be introduced in due course, so I am told.
In the future, software and technology, combined with innovations in sales and distribution strategies, will allow people to have routine access to a new car without all the costs of ownership.
This is very important for us. Most of the cars on our roads are used. Many were made in the last century. I told you many of these Beetles – they were mainly driven by priests. I remember some of these priests from different places used to be behind the wheels of these small things. They pollute much more, just because of their age, than the latest models do.
Africa does not need to be a dumping ground for second-hand cars, or second-hand anything. You know what has been going around also, about second-hand. In the long run, you end up paying a higher price anyway. So if you can pay a high price for second-hand, why not pay a high price for something new? It’s a simple choice.
I think we Africans, Rwandans, we deserve better, and this is one way of showing how we can afford it. For these and other reasons, I think that this promising partnership with Volkswagen is off to a very good start.
I wish you every success in your endeavours and thank you very much for the work you are doing to make this happen. For us, we are only here to serve you and make your efforts very productive.
Thank you very much.