During the January term, I worked at the Strategic Investments Unit (SIU) of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) based in Kigali, Rwanda. The SIU is responsible for negotiating private-public partnerships with investors on behalf of the government and sits in the RDB, a government agency designed to increase economic development, in part, by facilitating international investment.
For the past few years, I have explored my interest in the investment space in East Africa. Last spring, while taking an international investment law course, I began to explore clinical opportunities in the region. I chose to do clinical work in Rwanda because of the generally positive mood surrounding the country’s ambitious plan for economic development. I wanted to understand how Rwanda approaches foreign investment as a part of this development effort.
When I arrived at the SIU in early January, I was immediately given a list of active work assignments from which I could choose. At the time, the SIU was working on a number of projects in different sectors, from energy to financial investments. I worked with a team of financial experts and legal experts tasked with evaluating investment proposals and negotiating the terms of investment for approved projects. That meant digging into the business cases for investments (accompanied with financial models and workplans) and teasing out their assumptions, risks and potential value. For these proposals, I provided evaluative feedback for the heads of the unit and other stakeholders (e.g. staff of relevant ministries) as well as clarification questions, which were forwarded to the investors. This was a very rich experience because I saw not only how the process works from a micro perspective, but also how the SIU’s work operates as part of RDB’s larger strategy.
While working in the SIU, I worked closely with one of the attorneys in drafting project documents for use in the negotiation process. Specifically, I worked on revising the current power purchase agreement documents that will be used in negotiating future power generation projects. These will form the basis for negotiations and, hopefully, will allow the government of Rwanda to attain fair terms as the country pushes to provide electricity to its rural population.
Through my clinical experience, I have made significant improvement in my contract drafting skills, both conceptually and technically. I now have a much better understanding of how different clauses allocate risk among parties and how the different documents in a project interact. Beyond the hard legal skills I have gained, my clinical experience was both insightful and rewarding. Through this work, I got an up close look at how governments (the Rwandan government as well as generally) approach investment. I was able to make meaningful contributions to projects that have the potential to be tremendously positive for the people of Rwanda. This has been a wonderful experience that will inform my future work in the investment space in East Africa, as a lawyer as well as an investment professional.