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Exclusive Interview: German Ambassador Speaks About Economic Recovery Financing, Sniffing Dogs, Vaccine Manufacturing

8 Min Read

An unprecedented partnership in pharmaceutical industry was a result of engagements between Germany and Rwandan authorities in 2021.

The two countries were also able to sign an agreement for use of sniffing dogs to detect covid-19 and other pathogens.

In an exclusive interview, the German Ambassador to Rwanda, Dr. Thomas Kurz, says the bilateral relations between the two countries were characterised by unusually successful projects and investments.

Below are the excerpts of the interview;

Germany, as a friend of Rwanda, has been involved in fascinating projects and we would like you to give us an overview of Germany’s engagements with Rwanda in the recent months.

Ambassador: 2021 was an unusually successful year for our cooperation. We were able to double our partnership and this brought in 100 million euros for one year. This was really extraordinary and I would call it a success. The biggest part of the funds we have been able to make available went into fighting the pandemic and we had specifics on the economic effects of the pandemic, where we were trying to help the small and medium-sized enterprises to overcome the pandemic.

The second focus of our partnership was fighting climate change or managing the environmental policies. These are the main pillars that we realized last year.

You have a specific project of interest, not only unique but a little bit more sophisticated as far as Covid-19 is concerned.  The sniffing dogs. How did this come about and why you were involved in this project?

Ambassador: I think you cannot start speaking about our partnership in combating the effects of the pandemic without commending what Rwanda has been doing.

It is really amazing.  Rwanda’s government has been managing the pandemic well and this has been recognized worldwide. Rwanda should be very proud.

We also take pride, as partners, in the sniffing dogs project I was describing as a tiny project but very visible one, which stands as an example for what we have been doing.

It is a project that started in Europe, in Germany, where scientists discovered that sniffing dogs were able to detect Covid-19 infections in humans. So they started doing some research and it was a successful project.

And it immediately made it to the media because it was a successful project and many countries were interested in it. Rwanda requested us to share our experience, expertise. That was the starting point and now we are nearly there, we have already brought dogs, we had a trainer, a specialist who, for a couple of weeks did training here. We have now four trained sniffer dogs and we are just about to bring seven more. And once they are here, I think it will be a time this project will come into operational.

What other value additions towards this project on the side of Germany?

Ambassador: It is somehow unique. It is not just only something that attracts interests in the media, but even people in the German government are very interested, they are happy about that. In the end, it will be beneficial to both of us as well as the prestige coming out of it and the recognition from the specialists and general public that we have been doing something and Rwanda being at the forefront of the new developments with new scientific research.

What other arrangements and plans do you have after this?

Ambassador: In various aspects, this partnership is unique and something I didn’t mention is that we have brought green dogs, the dogs that have not been trained before. It is an important new aspect in the context of this research.

The second is that we have developed a machine to train those dogs.

And once this pandemic is over, these dogs might be used to detect other diseases in the future. So we are very optimistic that for example, they will be used at the entrances of the stadiums when people come to the sports events. This might be very useful not only in terms of the Corona pandemic but may be used to detect other pathogens that could come in the future.

On the side of Rwanda, are there particular limitations to exploit the resources, knowledge and skills on that project?

Ambassador: This is a starting point; we will bring more than seven dogs. And the fact that the country has already began using these dogs to detect drugs is a good ground to expand the project.

Give us a broad idea of how easier or difficult it is to engage Rwanda. What has been your observation?   

Ambassador: There is a project by BioNTech, for example, the company which has been producing the most successful vaccine so far.

First for the Covid-19 vaccine but also for the longer view to produce a vaccine for Malaria among others.

This is our biggest bilateral relations’ new development. There are plans to have similar productions in a few, two, or three African countries.

What do you learn from the process of engagements about such a big project, not only a scientific but a business investment with an African country to that extent?

What do you learn from the process, from the beginning of the discussions up to when pens were put on papers?

Ambassador: What I have seen, the most important thing is the absolute commitment by the Rwandan government to reach its goal and everything possible to make this a reality, it is not easy.

Rwanda hasn’t had a pharmaceutical industry so far, so it’s not easy but the commitment is absolutely there and this is something recommendable. And it is amazing. That makes a difference to many other parts of the continent.

Reporter: So we could conclude that it’s one of your major successes while assigned here?

Ambassador: I would not claim that it is my success but in terms of bilateral relations. Yes, it is, no doubt. I’m optimistic that more is going to happen within this year, 2022.