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  • Célestin Toeset

The EU and Rwanda Sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Sustainable Raw Materials Value Chains

On the 19th of February of this year, the European Union (EU) and Rwanda inked a new partnership that sees the East African country strengthen its role in cultivating sustainable development and advancing resilience in value chains across the continent. This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) carries the momentum from similar agreements with other resource-rich African nations like Namibia, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The MoU is supported by the EU’s Global Gateway initiative, a cornerstone of this agreement, whose mission is to bridge the global investment gap. By addressing disparities in investment in the Global South, the initiative aims to improve sustainable investment opportunities, fostering development and prosperity for the 27 Member States, their development agencies, and global partners. 

Rwanda holds a significant strategic position within this agreement as the landlocked nation is a major player in extracting critical raw materials (CRMs) - boasting large reserves, or at least potential, of resources essential to the manufacturing needs of critical sectors. Access to tantalum, tungsten, lithium, and rare earth elements (REE), whose uses range from aircraft engines and medical devices to batteries for electric vehicles, will be made easier in this working relationship. More than that, Kigali’s Karuruma tin smelting plant is one of only a few throughout the continent, cementing the country as a partner in the sustainable transition. 

Now, the MoU distinguishes five main areas for cooperation: 

  1. The integration of critical raw materials into existing value chains, promoting economic diversification for the country. 

  2. Adherence to ethical practices throughout the supply chain, including increased oversight, tracking mechanisms, and compliance with international environmental and social standards. 

  3. Developing infrastructure and the investment climate by attracting funding. 

  4. Collaboration in research and development, encouraging knowledge exchange in sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, and recycling techniques. 

  5. Capacity building to ensure lasting success by improving training and regulatory compliance. 

While concrete terms will be determined in the coming six months, both parties hereby set expectations of a fruitful long-term partnership. Additionally, the 2022 edition of the Forum saw Rwanda unveil its first Circular Economy Action Plan and Road Map, hinting at the possibility of new announcements at WCEF2024. We still have to wait for the MoU’s terms to be clearly defined, but its signature is a testament to the importance of the circular transition in steering Rwanda’s future. 

In the meantime, however, there are many exciting events to look forward to. On the 17th of April for instance, Circular Innovation Lab will be hosting an accelerator session at the World Circular Economic Forum (WCEF) in Brussels, specifically discussing partnerships promoting circularity in CRM value chains in the Global South.

To register for our World Circular Economy Forum Accelerator session, click here.


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