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Travelogue
Apr 3, 2020

Rwanda marching towards development

Sharmila Thakuri
Photo Gift: The writer (second from left) along with NFC team in Kigali.
Photo Gift: The writer (second from left) along with NFC team in Kigali.

Agony, disease, poverty, hunger and illiteracy are all what I had perceived about Rwanda, before visiting the country in mid-October last year.

News disseminated by almost all types of media that I had watched often showcased Rwanda was a country ruined by civil war, genocide and inhuman activities. However, it was the country that I had ever dreamt to visit as I always admire to interact with people living in the pathetic conditions.  

As I was seeking an opportunity to visit that ruined country, it was turned into a reality with kind cooperation of Ms. Om Devi Malla, one of the board directors of International Cooperative Federation.

Though the entire costs of my trip (includes accommodation, food, transportation and other expenses) have to be borne by myself which was somehow a big burden upon me. But, with the admire suggestions of friends and family members finally I decided to explore the one of the African countries Rwanda –geographically far away from Nepal.

Besides covering the news of the International Cooperative Federation conference, I determined to observe Republic of Rwanda’s pace of development that the country achieved in the post-civil war which fell into civil war, suffered from Ebola virus. Besides, in genocide incident of 1994.

During the process, I found that the entry to Rwanda is not that easy as the country allows to only limited number of visitors, except the people related to international non-government organizations. Even though, the hurdles, however, did not stop.

Finally, the Nepali team includes Nepal Cooperative Federation (NCF) President Keshab Badal, International Cooperative Federation Board Director Ms. Malla and NCF board member Ramesh Pokharel and myself landed at Kigali International Airport- the primary airport serving Rwanda in mid-October.

The greenery environment, unbelievable development in Kigali that includes high skyscrapers, wide four-lane roads, big shopping complexes and commercial apartments along with the small residential structures and to be pointed out is cleaner with greener made my perception towards the country fallacious.

A rendering of downtown Kigali, Rwanda. Social site

On the milieu of the devastated humanity local people hiding their agony welcome all the delegations including ours with a cherish smile. Whether it is a person from an elite group or grass-root level, everyone has their own pasts to live on and hope for better future with every dawn.

While visiting here and there in Kigali, it is found that the city is undergoing planned development works with many construction of skyscrapers building, roads and other structures with the assistance mostly of Chinese government. Also huge number of Chinese entrepreneurs have made big volume of investment basically in the hospitality business and others too. According to the Rwandans, the main source of income of the Rwandan is hospitality business-tourism in particular. However, it was also found that almost all the construction contractors were Chinses itself.

Yego cab, which is available in two-wheeler or a four-wheeler, is the accessible and the cheapest means of transportation, similar to Tootle and Pathao in Nepal.

However, unlike the ones in Nepal, Yego does not offer the services via mobile apps. Also, there is an easy availability of the private cars ready for rental services with cheap price compare to Nepal.

The people also used to say that like other cities Kigali is an expensive place as being a capital city. However, the cost of living outside Kigali is cheaper.

It is also experienced while meeting with the various people including local Rwandans, almost all the Rwandans have no such big kind of un-satisfaction towards their government. The people acknowledged the contribution of the current President Paul Kagame ruling since 2000 who pioneered to end the civil war and leading Rwanda in current position.

For not having any antipathy against the government, the people largely assume their accountability for their state.

As a citizen of the country where the people have lots of complaints against the government, this scribe found it awesome the almost all people praising their government for the good deeds being done according to the promises for the betterment of the people.

Another thing that made surprised was that Rwanda does not have any permanent bureaucratic structure. The government is authorized to recruit any government officials at the time of need.

Like in Nepal, the Banda (closure) and protest culture are far from sight. The government appraises the work performance of the civil servants in every three months. Based on the work performance, the government decides whether or not to retain the employees. People have a full trust on the government.

The authority has prudently managed the survivors of the genocides, in which the people from the different economic class and racial communities are settled in such a way that they can mingle with each other. These people have been restricted to talk on the issue of racism. They said they have a common identity “We are Rwandan.”

Minister for Trade & Industry Ms. Soraya Hakujiyareme. Photo: minicom.gov.rw

During a week-long trip, I also managed to make field study and had an opportunity to meet general citizens to high officials including the Minister for Trade & Industry Ms. Soraya Hakujiyareme and other high ranking government personalities.

I found none of them are ready to recall the past devastation that took place in the country.  They have detestation towards French people and the then father of Catholic Church, who are blamed to have aggravated the civil wars by supplying arms to mainly the Hutu group. In just 100 days in 1994, about 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

Minister Ms. Soraya said they have put notable efforts to invite the foreign investment and to promote the production of local goods. According to her, 90 per cent of the manufacturing businesses are small and medium enterprises while only 10 per cent is large industries. Cooperatives contribute 30 per cent in Rwandan economy.

According to the latest Doing Business Index report published by the World Bank, Rwanda stands at 29th in the lists. The recovery made by civil war devastated country in the short time span is praiseworthy, compared to similar other countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan.

Of 190 countries assessed under the index report, Nepal is ranked 110th. Rwanda is smaller than Nepal in both land area and population size. Rwanda spreads in 26,338 square km and 12.21 million population.

However, the African country has left Nepal behind in terms of economic development. Despite undergoing the civil war for long period, per capita income of Rwanda is US $ 770 per annum, which is closer to Nepal’s per capita income of $1,050 per annum.

Similarly, the economic growth rate of the country in 2018 was 7.8 per cent per annum while it is 6.7 per cent for Nepal. Government expenditure in Rwanda makes out 8.8 per cent of the total public expenditure while it is only 5.31 per cent in Nepal.

According to the World Bank’s report on innovation index, Rwanda stands at 88th position and it is 108th for Nepal. Similarly, Rwanda also leading Nepal in terms of Human Capital Index. Standing at 71st position compared to Nepal at 98th on list.

Rwanda is achieving an increment of 5.5 per cent a year in its exports. According to the World Bank report, trade deficit of Rwanda is just 8.46 per cent compared to 36.92 per cent of Nepal. In terms of gender equality index, Rwanda is in 6th position while Nepal is in 105th position. 

Tin, gold, tea and coffee are the main export items that make out 57 per cent of the total exports, said the Minister for Industry Soraya. Revenue collection from tourism, which shares 47 per cent in total, is the main source of the government revenue. Rwanda is being developed as a tourism hub.

Genocide Memorial Museum, which is constructed to commemorate 250,000 victims, attracts visitors the most. In addition, Rwanda Art Museum which used to be the official residence of Rwandan President Juve’nal Habyarimana back in1994, is another attraction for visitors. President Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6, 1994 with missile attacked on his private Falcon 50 jet near Kigali International Airport. Volcano Land and chimpanzee are also among the tourists’ attractions.

Talking about life expectancy, Rwanda has 67 years and more than 90 per cent people have access to safe drinking water. Higher school level education is mandatory for all Rwandans.

Writer with local kids in Kigali.

Due to merciful policy of Rwandan government the country has been accommodating nearly 150,000 refugees came crossing borders from Burundi, Lebanon etc.

Anyway, the centre of political and commercial life, Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a showpiece capital designed to impress visitors from the humble tourist to foreign investors and visiting dignitaries.

As a clean, comfortable and ordered city, Kigali is very popular as the cleanest town but also as the best destination for one to experience amazing and dazzling nightlife that leaves travelers thrilled by lifetime experiences in most of its bars, lounges, clubs, live music, restaurants, art scene and many more will definitely forget you are in Africa.

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