MOU on Sustainable Raw Materials Value Chains between the EU and Rwanda

Jutta Urpilainen @JuttaUrpilainen

On February 19th, the European Union and Rwanda signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen Rwanda’s role in fostering sustainable development and resilient value chains across Africa. The agreement, signed by Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, aims to nurture sustainable, resilient value chains for critical raw materials. 

Minerals are essential for Rwanda’s economy.

Mineral value chains are critical to Rwanda’s economy, as the country is a significant player in the world’s tantalum extraction, and it also produces tin, tungsten, gold, and niobium, with potential for lithium and rare earth elements. Rwanda has the only active tin smelting plant in Africa. With its favourable investment climate and the rule of law, it can become a hub for value addition in the mineral sector. Rwanda already has one gold refinery, and a tantalum refinery will soon be operational.

This partnership between the EU and Rwanda will contribute to ensuring a sustainable supply of raw materials, especially critical raw materials, essential for delivering green and clean energy objectives. The EU has already started working to build partnerships with resource-rich third countries as part of the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, using all external policy instruments and respecting its international obligations while implementing the EU’s Global Gateway.

Close cooperation in five areas

The Memorandum of Understanding establishes close cooperation between the EU and Rwanda in five areas, including the integration of sustainable raw materials value chains and support for economic diversification, cooperation to achieve sustainable and responsible production and valorisation of critical and strategic raw materials, mobilisation of funding for the development of raw material value chains, research and innovation and sharing of knowledge and technologies related to sustainable exploration, extraction, refining, processing, valorisation and recycling of critical and strategic raw materials, and building capacity to enforce relevant rules, increasing training and skills related to the vital and strategic raw materials value chain.

The signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and Rwanda signals both parties’ intention to strengthen their partnership for closer integration of raw materials value chains. This cooperation model will allow the partner country to diversify their economy, promote added value, and integrate better standards. The EU’s Global Gateway investment plan will provide the financial support needed for skills development in the mining sector, improved transparency and traceability, and support to mobilise funds for infrastructures. 

“Global Gateway provides the frame for ambitious and strategic partnerships driving structural transformation and promoting added value like this partnership on raw materials value chains with Rwanda. It is not only about trade and investments: it is about the planet and the people who will benefit from a sustainable, transparent and resilient value chain of critical raw materials,” Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said.

“Rwanda is strongly committed to ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future to its citizens and the planet. Our partnership with the EU will greatly contribute to achieving this,” FM Vincent Biruta posted on X. 

Following the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding, the sides will develop a roadmap with concrete actions within six months to put the strategic partnership into practice.

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