A Chinese road in Rwanda

Rwanda’s roads are generally good. This brand spanking new one in central Kigali is a prime example. It’s in Kiyovu, a quiet, leafy suburb of the capital. A place the well-to-do, the President, a number of NGO offices and a smattering of expats call home. Work finished on the cul-de-sac and drainage ditches about a week ago. It was built by the Chinese with Rwandan labourers. It took roughly three weeks to complete from start to finish. I say “complete”. The road didn’t quite technically “complete”. At least not to the very end.

The shiny new tarmac stops right outside a large white house. The gold plated sign nailed to the entrance of the house reads “Chinese Ambassador’s Residence”.

The Chinese led team of labourers are now back resurfacing roads in the funky, but poor, neighbourhood of Nyamirambo. So, for the time being, and quite possibly some considerable time after that, the five houses at the end of this cul-de-sac in Kiyovu will have to make do with the section of old style Rwandan road pictured above.

On a side note, China’s involvement in Africa is often slated by western media or at least seen as “suspicious”. Here are a couple of arguments against that common line of thought. Journalist and Africa-hand, Rob Crilly notes in his review of On The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa By Deborah Brautigam,

Brautigam’s analysis recasts China’s role with detailed evidence and interviews, and presents a damning portrait of western aid. China’s role as a donor is based on China’s own history as an aid recipient, she argues, giving Beijing a powerful insight into what may and may not help Africa. According to this analysis, it is western governments that are pursuing a neocolonial agenda. link

Rwandan President Paul Kagame sang a similar refrain during an interview with a German newspaper in November, 2009,

“The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies,” he told business newspaper Handelsblatt. “China is investing in infrastructure and building roads,” he said, adding that European and American involvement “has not brought Africa forward”. “Western firms have to a large extent polluted Africa and they are still doing it,” Mr Kagame said. link

And China isn’t just interested in road building in Rwanda. It’s got eyes on the proposed regional rail network too,

“The idea that Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are planning a regional railway has excited me and I believe it will bring political and socioeconomic benefits. We want to be one of the contractors for this project,” [President of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Yuan Li] said. “We were also the contractors for the Tanzania-Zambia railway in 1960 and we have railway projects in Nigeria, Algeria and Libya and the Middle East, so we know that we can contribute our knowhow and investment in this.” link

Photos taken from the Kigali Wire Flickr account.