Omar Daair-GOV.UK
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Interview with Omar Daair “The Commonwealth is becoming increasingly important and CHOGM 2022 will prove it”

On the occasion of CHOGM 2022 that will take place from June 20 to 26, in Kigali, ANA met with Omar Daair, British High Commissioner to Rwanda, to assess the relationship between Britain and Africa, the future of the Commonwealth on the continent and the challenges of CHOGM 2022. Exclusive interview.

Interviewed by Dounia Ben Mohamed in Kigali

What is the role of the British High Commissioner in Rwanda? What kinds of projects are you carrying out in Rwanda? 

The High Commission works with our partners on a big range of things whether it’s development whether it’s promoting trade whether it’s supporting good governance and building cultural links between our two countries.

The new international development strategy we have announced has four main strands all of which I think apply in Rwanda. The first one is on building investment partnerships. We work with UK businesses to encourage them to invest in in Rwanda. We see good examples of that already particularly in green technology. We have some good business at work. 

The second is particularly on women and girls. For us, in Rwanda, that means our education program is increasingly focused on learning outcomes for girls, because we think that if girls succeed then that helps the country’s economy and development and of course we see in Rwanda a lot of really great examples of women leaders and would like to encourage the next group of those people.

The third is support on humanitarian which is a really big priority for the UK across Africa and across the world well we see you don’t have humanitarian crisis here in a in Rwanda but what is applied here is our support on social protection so we provide funding for those who are at the very bottom of the income scales and need support to put themselves out of extreme poverty.

Finally, the last strand is to work on some of the major global challenges that we are facing right now, and these two areas are the most important. Climate, where we are very strong partners. In the wake of the COP 26, which we hosted in Glasgow, we are working closely with the Ministry of the Environment on environmental projects, protecting nature and tackling health issues. For example, in the COVID crisis, we have partnered with them to donate vaccines and protective equipment.

We are trying to promote these partnerships.

“UK partnership with Africa has been really strong for a very long time”

More broadly, how is the UK’s relationship with Africa evolving? Particularly in this post-Brexit context where the UK is seeking to forge new partnerships…

I would say that the UK partnership with Africa has been really strong for a very long time. It’s not just a post Brexit, I think what you haven’t seen on post Brexit vote is the UK government thinking particularly about how we build new trade partnerships on our own, with African partners. We’re working on that with African community at the moment but we’re also thinking about the role that African countries can play as really important actors on the world stage. I mean for example when you look at the response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, discussions at the UN and in another fora depend on votes and voices from countries in Africa and elsewhere across the world so we really see Africa playing a key role on these kind of bigger global issues around the world.  

There is also just a historic link between the UK and lots of our partners in Africa we have a lot of education links where people go to study in the UK or spend time working and living in the UK. We want to encourage that sort of exchange when it comes to building economic partnerships but also in terms of culture links

The CHOGM 2022, hosted for the second time in Africa, in Kigali to be precise, should confirm this relationship between the UK and Africa…

We think that Commonwealth is becoming more important all the time. This event in Kigali next month is going to really highlight importance of the organization, because the commonwealth is a family of 54 member countries and they cover about a third of the world population. Therefore, it’s a really big organization and so we think it can play a really important role in tackling some face big challenges that we have talked about. Whether it’s talking about how do we work together to promote intra-commonwealth. We are keen trade with the key to see the level of trade between commonwealth countries increase. 

It’s also about our shared values, I think one of the things that the commonwealth is really good at is promoting the things we all believe in and all commit to. We will commit to respecting the human rights, to promoting the rule of law good governance. And the commonwealth can do a lot to really shake that and to develop programs allowing making progress in all commonwealth member countries.

“It’s a chance to show how Rwanda is ambitious not just about its own development but about the role that it can play in tackling some of these global issues”

It is also a great opportunity for Rwanda…

 I think it’s going to be really important for Kigali and for Rwanda, because it’s a chance to shine on the world stage. We know that Rwanda can host is global events really well. We have just seen the Sustainable Energy for All conference, followed by the upcoming ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference. We know that Rwanda can do it.  But this is going to be the biggest one of them all. We are expecting many heads of government including my own he will come here. We are expecting Prince Charles to be here as acting head of the Commonwealth in place of the Queen. So, the eyes of the world will be really on Rwanda. I think it’s a chance to show how Rwanda is ambitious not just about its own development but about the role that it can play in tackling some of these global issues. Whether it’s developing new green technology, or defending the rights of women and girls and supporting female entrepreneurship.

“Thinking about how can we use that energy and the potential of the young people across the commonwealth to drive progress and development for our member”

The meeting also features the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF), bringing together young people from the 54 member states of the organization. This is the direction taken by the Commonwealth: place for youth?

I think there also be a real focus on youth because the commonwealth is a very young community. I think about 30% of all the population under eighteen. Therefore, thinking about how can we use that energy and the potential of the young people across the commonwealth to drive progress and development for our member. 

 

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