Photograph — Fairphone

Rwanda recorded more than a double in earnings last year compared to 2016 in its second largest foreign exchange earner, helped by the strengthening of the global commodity market.

Earnings from exports of minerals like gold and gemstone more than doubled to $373 million last year after recording only $166 million in 2016. The Chief Executive at Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), Francis Gatare, told journalists yesterday after a stakeholder meeting that last year’s earnings were “fantastic.”

Francis Gatare said the growth was “driven by very strong commodity prices on global market … good prices of new commodities particularly gold and gemstone.”

To accelerate the growth, the state-run agency revealed it’s expecting 13 new mining blocks to start operating between July and June 2019. The agency also plans to install two smelters to help add value to some of its minerals such as tin and coltan, which could see earnings climb to $600 million in 2019, up to $800 million by 2020 and $1.5 billion by 2024.
Mining is Rwanda’s second largest foreign exchange earner after tourism, but small-scale mining accounts for around 80 percent of the country’s mineral output. The government is eager to formalize the sector, attract international mining investors, and increase processing of minerals in the country.
The Mines, Gas and Petroleum Board was established in February 2017 to coordinate government efforts and attract investments in these sectors.
The East African nation has been able to lure investors with its friendly business environment and the country’s current growth rate levels, which is somewhat rare in many emerging economies.
Earlier this year, a Macedonian company, Power Resource Group, made an investment worth $12 million (Rwf10 billion) with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for the construction of the tantalum refinery in the Eastern district of Rwanda.

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