Exclusive Interview: German Ambassador Talks Economic Recovery Funding, Sniffer Dogs and Vaccine Manufacturing

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

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

In an exclusive interview, Germany’s Ambassador to Rwanda, Dr. Thomas Kurz said that bilateral relations between the two countries are characterized by exceptionally successful projects and investments.

Here are excerpts from the interview;

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

Ambassador: 2021 has been an exceptionally successful year for our cooperation. We were able to double our partnership and it brought in 100 million euros for one year. It was really extraordinary and I would say that it is a success. Most of the funds that we were able to make available went to the fight against the pandemic and we had details of the economic effects of the pandemic, where we were trying to help small and medium businesses to overcome the pandemic.

The second axis of our partnership was the fight against climate change or the management of environmental policies. These are the main pillars that we achieved last year.

You have a specific project that interests you, not only unique but a little more sophisticated with regard to Covid-19. Sniffer dogs. How did it happen and why did you participate in this project?

Ambassador: I think you can’t start talking about our partnership in fighting the effects of the pandemic without acknowledging what Rwanda has done.

It’s really unbelievable. The Rwandan government has handled the pandemic well and this has been recognized around the world. Rwanda should be very proud.

We are also proud, as partners, of the sniffer dog project, which I described as a tiny but very visible project, which is an example of what we have done.

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

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

What other added values ​​towards this project on the German side?

Ambassador: It’s kind of unique. It’s not just something the media are interested in, but even the German government people are very interested, they’re happy about it. In the end, it will be beneficial for both of us and the prestige that comes with it and the recognition by specialists and the general public that we have done something and that Rwanda is at the forefront of new developments with new scientific research. .

What other arrangements and plans do you have after that?

Ambassador: In many ways this partnership is unique and something I didn’t mention is that we brought green dogs, dogs that have never been trained before. This is an important new aspect in the context of this research.

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

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

On the Rwandan side, are there any particular limitations to leveraging resources, knowledge and skills on this project?

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

Give us a general idea of ​​how easy or difficult it is to engage Rwanda. What was your observation?

Ambassador: There is a project from BioNTech, for example, the company that has produced the most successful vaccine so far.

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

This is the new development of our most important bilateral relations. It is planned to have similar productions in a few, two or three African countries.

What do you learn from the process of commitments on such a big project, not only a scientific investment but also commercial with an African country at this point?

What do you learn from the process, from the start of the discussions until the moment the pens have been put down on the papers?

Ambassador: What I saw, the most important thing is the absolute commitment of the Rwandan government to achieve its goal and everything possible to make it 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 it’s something to be commended. And it’s amazing. This makes a difference compared to many other parts of the continent.

Journalist: So we could conclude that this is one of your main successes during your assignment here?

Ambassador: I would not claim that it is my success but in terms of bilateral relations. Yes, it is, without a doubt. I am optimistic that more things will happen in this year 2022.

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