Dog vaccine

Exclusive interview: German ambassador talks about financing economic recovery, sniffer dogs and vaccine manufacturing

An unprecedented partnership in the pharmaceutical industry is the result of commitments between Germany and the 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, German Ambassador to Rwanda Dr Thomas Kurz said the bilateral relationship between the two countries was 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 that brought in 100 million euros over one year. It was really amazing and I would say it’s 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 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 project of specific interest, not only unique but a little more sophisticated with regard to Covid-19. Sniffer dogs. How did this happen and why did you get involved in this project?

Ambassador: I think you can’t start talking about our partnership in tackling the effects of the pandemic without commending 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 Dogs 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 to research and it was a successful project.

And it immediately hit 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 in seven more. And once they are there, I think it will be time for this project to become operational.

What other added value towards this project on the German side?

Ambassador: It’s kind of unique. It is not only something that attracts the interest of the media, but even the members of the German government are very interested, they are delighted. Ultimately this will benefit both of us as well as the prestige that will come with it and recognition from specialists and the general public that we have done something and Rwanda being at the forefront of new developments with new scientific research. .

What other arrangements and plans do you have after this?

Ambassador: In many ways this partnership is unique and what 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 appear in the future.

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

Ambassador: This is a starting point; we will bring more than seven dogs. And the fact that the country has already started using these dogs for drug testing is good ground for expanding the project.

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

Ambassador: There’s 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 engaging on such a large project, not just scientific investment but commercial investment with an African country to that extent?

What do you learn from the process, from the start of the discussions until the time the pens were put on the papers?

Ambassador: What I saw, the most important 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 commendable. And it is unbelievable. It makes a difference for many other parts of the continent.

Reporter: So we could conclude that this is one of your main successes while you are posted here?

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