The Transformation of Rwanda — And What Still Needs to be Done

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For the last 20 years since the genocide and civil war, Rwanda has achieved impressive development progress. The country’s average GDP has increased by an average of 8%, with long term goals to transform from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy with a middle-income country status by 2020.

This astronomical growth can be attributed to good leadership, stringent policies and strategy. The government of Rwanda in tandem with the private sector have incessantly been under good leadership under the presidency of His Excellency Paul Kagame.

Hailing from a military background, he was one of the front runners of the RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) which ended the genocide in 1994. He is a hands-on, no-nonsense leader who has instilled discipline in the country. His work ethic, persistence, and tenacity has made Rwanda leapfrog from the rubble to the ritz.

The private sector, on the other hand, have formed some strong bilateral relationships with people from the West and East. This has lured them into the country, and, as a result,  Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has risen like mercury in a summer day over the years. The wrath of the genocide has been channelled towards growth and development.

The return of the diaspora back to Rwanda has led to reduction in the skills gap as they brought their newly acquired skills and expertise. The new generation of Rwanda has made it their mission to deliver Rwanda from the pangs of poverty as their forefathers did with independence. This is a long-time dream that is coming to fruition as the country rapidly changes itself from a subsistence economy to a knowledge economy.

Beautiful Skies of Kigali, Rwanda (photo credit Antonis Kyrou)

Beautiful Skies of Kigali, Rwanda (photo credit Antonis Kyrou)

Many times, developing economies are plagued by corruption that results in more devastation and even decline in growth. The senior leaders loot from their own but expect different results. That is like dancing around fire expecting magic to happen.

But that’s not the case in Rwanda. Stringent policies made by the policy makers are implemented by the civil workers. Every law passed in parliament is treated like a verse in the bible and held deeply like the gospel.

Attendees at the Transform Africa Summit 2013 (Photo credit - Rwandan Government)

Attendees at the Transform Africa Summit 2013 (Photo credit – Rwandan Government)


A Much-Needed Revolution

If Rwanda is to scale the heights and become an ICT, if not an economy hub of the world, it needs a mindset drift. The society needs to open their mind to new ideas and embrace science and technology.

The government, on the other hand, needs to encourage competition and hence cease monopolizing each industry. Competition fosters innovation and this leads to more growth and development as each organization strives to think outside the box.

The government and the society need to fuel a new revolution, paint a new picture of Rwanda as a knowledge economy by leveraging IT to place itself on the world economy map.

The youth need to be empowered by reviving entrepreneurship and harnessing their talents to diversify the economy. Rwanda needs to transition to a more democratic state where the citizens can freely air their grievances. This will make the country more inclusive and even draw in more investment.

Right now, a commoner would rather trust a foreigner than his next door neighbour. This is a disease that is plaguing the country and hindering growth. Indeed, the mistrust may be a side-effect of the genocide, but people need to move on and build a bigger, better country devoid of hatred, mistrust and jealousy.


Rwandan Resiliency

Despite all that, the people of Rwanda learned a lot from the genocide. It instilled some sort of resilience among the people as they learned from their mistakes and strive never to undergo the pain again.

Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliament in the world. With this all-inclusive gender-balanced parliament, it has enabled women to air their grievances, which, when addressed, will lead to the growth and development of the entire country.


Rwanda in 20 Years

The immense potential of Rwanda can be compared to a sleeping beauty that is just waking up. It stands a chance to defy the odds and become the focal point of activity, considering its central location in the map. Kigali was voted the cleanest city in Africa, and Rwanda is one of the most secure countries in the planet.

Plucking tea on a hillside on the Kitabe tea estate (Photo credit - Samalenge Urwanga and Tim Smith)

Plucking tea on a hillside on the Kitabe tea estate (Photo credit – Samalenge Urwanga and Tim Smith)

Rwanda is destined to grow tremendously, as the government has spent a lot of money on capacity building initiatives. It will be the innovation centre as the government, in collaboration with the PSF funds innovation hubs like kLab (knowledge Lab), provides trainings and mentorships to breed entrepreneurs and innovators who will change the world.

To get Rwanda to that place, Rwanda needs to invest in R&D laboratories for Agriculture, Science, and Technology to solve the local problems with a global perspective. The society needs to foster entrepreneurship and support local entrepreneurs. The government needs to support local industries and reduce imports, which will result in the increase of GDP of the country.