Category Archives: New Times Rwanda

Rwanda ‘committed to ICT for development’

Rwanda ‘committed to ICTs for development’

Rwandan President Paul Kagame says his government sees broadband as a means to address its development challenges. He was addressing a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on the question: “why broadband should be prioritized in the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Rwandan government reports that President Kagame outlinedd Rwanda’s commitment to the use of ICT for transformation: “People used to think that broadband is meant for a few people and cannot be accessed by the majority. We have found that with the right investments, we can make it accessible and affordable. People are now able to use ICT for health, education and to access markets for their agricultural products. The results speak for themselves in every part of Africa.”

As co-chair of the Broadband Commission, President Kagame also thanked the broadband commissioners for their dedication to increasing broadband accessibility.

ITU Secretary General, Ahmadou Toure explained the goals of the Broadband Commission as essential to sustainable development. “Our goal is to put broadband at the centre of every national agenda. We want to use broadband to achieve millenium development goals and address global challenges including youth unemployment, climate change, and environmental sustainability. We are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Reminding those present that ICT must be part of a wider context that includes good governance, President Kagame emphasized the role of ICT in ensuring that citizens have access to information: “My hope is built on one thing. Giving the majority of our people ICT tools means they will be able to face their challenges.”

President Kagame added that broadband is an opportunity to share knowledge in a mutually beneficial manner:“It is important to understand that there is no part of the world that has monopoly of knowledge or best practices. That is the beauty of the globalized society we live in.”

Tanzania evictees to get permanent homes

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Evictees from Tanzania who are temporarily housed in school structures in Jabana Sector, Gasabo District. The New Times/ John Mbanda.

Rwandans who were evicted from Tanzanian will be moved to their permanent homes by March, the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Affairs Permanent Secretary Antoine Ruvebana, said on Monday.

Ruvebana said the ministry is providing construction materials while districts are identifying land where to construct the housing units.

Over 5,830 evictees were last month temporarily moved from Kiyanzi and Rukara transit centre in the Eastern Province where they had been sheltered after they were banished from Kagera region in neighbouring Tanzania.

They are temporarily hosted in various districts in the country.

About 14,253 crossed into Rwanda following their controversial expulsion from Tanzania in August. A total of 8,361 have since reunited with their families in various parts of the country.

“The next phase is to relocate them from the current temporary residences to permanent homes,” Ruvebana said.

He said they had started distributing some scholastic materials to children and were considering providing them with health insurance (Mituelles de santé).

Some districts have already commenced the construction of houses for the evictees.

All districts were given a three-month period to reintegrate the evictees.

Rubavu District mayor Sheikh Hassan Bahame said the process will be completed within two months.

“We have already hired a contractor who will work alongside the district,” Bahame said.

He said his district will put up 32 houses for the 60 people who were relocated there.

Gideon Ruboneza,  Ngororero District mayor, said they had identified land  in various sectors, including Kavumu, Ngororero  and Muhororo where 35 houses  for  101 people,  currently living in former school buildings in Kavumu sector will be built.

He said he is optimistic all the evictees will be resettled in the next two months.

Ruboneza said the district is employing the evictees in VUP programmes, a national anti-poverty scheme through which the poor receive support from the government.

UN agencies such as World Food Programme, Unicef and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are   providing the evictees with basic necessities.

Nyarugenge mayor Solange Mukasonga said those relocated to her district will be resettled in Kanyinya, Mageragere and Nyarugenge sectors.

She said 27 houses will be constructed, starting next month.

Mukasonga said they held a meeting with stakeholders, including religious leaders, and agreed to monitor and follow up on the evictees on a daily basis to ensure they access basic needs.

I&M bank signs EU funding deal

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The European Investment Bank and the I&M bank on Tuesday signed a deal that will see Rwandan small businesses benefit from EUR8 million under the new lending programme for Small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s).

This is the second new small business lending programme between the European Investment Bank and I&M Bank Rwanda in seven years. Previously the EIB floated $3 billion.

The agreement was signed by Sanjeev Anand, Managing Director of I&M Bank Rwanda and Kurt Simonsen, Head of the European Investment Bank’s regional representation for East and Central Africa.

Simonsen said that the I&M bank has proved to be a good and trusted partner over the years and the European Investment Bank (EIB) is confident that the funding will enable Rwandans to attain their economic development strategies.

“We are very proud to work with I&M, who have been using the funding appropriately to facilitate economic development in this country. We are very sure that this money will reach the rightful owners and be used well” he said.

Managing Director, Sanjeev Anand explained that the SME and corporate sector forms the most important part of I&M Bank’s strategy in Rwanda and that the long-term financing lines provided by EIB will go a long way in facilitating efforts to provide investment support to SMEs.

Over the years, the European Investment Bank has extended five small business focused credit lines for a total amount of EUR 31 million to Banque Rwandaise de Développement, Bank of Kigali, and I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd.

The funds have helped to develop more than 100 SMEs and created more than 1, 250 jobs in the private sector in Rwanda. In addition to supporting small and medium sized companies in the country.

The European Investment Bank has signed a credit line with Kenya Commercial Bank to support microfinance and intends to broaden support for private sector investment in Rwanda in the future.

Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda to Build Super-Highway

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are considering building a superhighway from Mombasa to Kigali, parallel to the planned railway.

According to regional trade lobby organization Trademark East Africa, which will be facilitating the project, it is expected to have a six-lane road, with construction beginning in 2016.

Inspired by the N1 highway that runs from Cape Town in South Africa to Harare in Zimbabwe, the proposed road is intended to ease the movement of cargo, thereby reducing the cost of doing business and increasing intra-regional trade.

Expenditure on transport in the EAC countries accounts for 45% of the total cost of goods. This is 30% higher than in Southern Africa, making commodities produced in the region uncompetitive.

John Byabagambi, Uganda’s Junior Minister for Works who is chairing the Standard Gauge Railway Committee, said that Trademark was doing feasibility studies for a dual carriage highway that forms part of plans to expand the Northern Corridor, as the current single carriage system is too narrow and fraught with inefficiencies.

Allen Asiimwe of Trademark East Africa said the superhighway would have no weighbridges or roadblocks.

This means that once the goods are loaded onto a truck at the Port of Mombasa, there will be no stops until the final destination. Weighbridges and roadblocks are among major hindrances to trade in the region.

As the cost of doing business in the region drops, intra-EAC trade, which currently stands at over $3.8 million, or just 13% of the total trade volumes in the region, is expected to increase.

Asiimwe added that the road, the ability of the revenue authorities of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya to acquire the latest software known as Automated Systems for Customs Data (Asycuda), plus a $50 million investment in the port of Mombasa, will ensure that cargo moves fast and that it is constantly monitored.

“Investment in a regional asset like the Mombasa port will reduce the time for clearing goods from 18 to five days,” she said.

The software enables Customs officials from the three countries to use the electronic tracking system to monitor the trucks.

The software will also boost the EAC Customs Union since revenue authorities will be able to assess and collect taxes at the first point of entry. This means that once a trader has paid his taxes for goods bound for Uganda, there will be no need to pay a refundable bond to Kenya. This has been the practice, due to the fear that goods could be dumped in Kenya.

As the cost of doing business in the region drops, intra-EAC trade, which currently stands at over $3.8 million, or just 13% of the total trade volumes in the region, is expected to increase.

Experts warn that intra-EAC trade is well below the standards of any functional common market.

“Intra-regional trade should account for at least 25% of the total trade volumes in any functional common market,” said Rashid Kibowa, Commissioner for Economic Affairs in Uganda’s Ministry of East African Community Affairs.

In the European Union, intra-regional trade accounts for 55% of total trade while it stands at 40% in the US.

Rwanda scores another first in region with 4G rollout

Rwanda will soon be among the few African countries to link every corner of the country when it rolls out the first ever 4G LTE broadband network in the region.

The new technology is expected to offer high-speed Internet and make Rwanda the East African Community leader in information and communications technology.

LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a wireless broadband technology designed to support roaming Internet access via cellphones and handheld devices.

The $140 million project, to be rolled out over the next three years by the government in partnership with KT Corporation, South Korea’s biggest telecommunications provider, will see the whole country linked to a fiber optic cable.

Its launch coincides with Transform Africa, a continental ICT and innovation summit that takes place in Kigali from October 28 to 31.

Seven African presidents and more than 1,500 delegates from all over the world are expected at the summit to discuss how Africa can overcome its connectivity and ICT challenges.

The presidents who are expected to attend include Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda — who will also be in Kigali for their countries’ Infrastructure Summit on October 28.

According to Rwanda’s Minister for ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the country is today ranked among the “most connected” countries in Africa.

The 4G LTE network will be the final phase to deliver the “last mile” of connectivity after putting in place all the other infrastructures needed, including linking the whole country to the fiber optic backbone. The project will connect 95 per cent of Rwandans.

“Six years ago, African leaders met in Kigali for the connect Africa summit to find means of addressing the digital divide the continent was facing. At the time, only five per cent of the population had mobiles but today 65 per cent of Rwandans own mobile phones,” Mr Nsengimana said.

Connecting all citizens

“Today, when we meet in Kigali for Transform Africa, the question will not be how Africa will be connected but rather how this infrastructure can reach the final person,” he added.

Africa’s biggest challenge remains linking population to available ICT infrastructures as well as the high cost of making phone calls.

Rwanda and other EAC member states are among the countries where making a single phone call is more expensive than in any other part of the world.

The issue of affordability of telecoms and data will be one of the key issues to discussed at the Kigali summit this week.

Butaro Cancer Centre opens new wing

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Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho is joined by Dr Paul Farmer, one of the founding directors of Partners in Health (2R) and Bill and Joyce Cummings (Friends of Rwanda), as well as Burera Mayor Samuel Sembagare (L) to commission the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Centre on Tuesday. The New Times/Irene Nayebare

Butaro Cancer Centre has opened a new wing to address the increasing demand for medical services at the facility.

The new facility, a brainchild of joint efforts between government and Partners in Health, among other stakeholders, has been named the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Centre (BACC).

BACC has been constructed to supplement the centre that has taken on more than 1,000 new patients on its oncology programme during its one-year existence.

Addressing officials who graced the opening of the centre, Dr Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners in Health, said the only way to reduce cancer deaths is to integrate prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The Butaro District-based centre is the first to be established in a rural area across East Africa, and according to officials, some of the patients who have been treated there are from other EAC countries.

“Eighty-four per cent of cancer falls more heavily on the poor, especially in low and middle income countries,” Dr Farmer said, defending the decision to set up the facility upcountry.

The Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, said Rwanda has a plan of having a medical campus at Butaro.

“We avail services to our people and that’s what we are supposed to do but the people also have a task: to use the services given to them; for cancer screening, it’s free of charge,” Dr Binagwaho said.

Saved by cancer centre

Delphine Musabeyezu, a 39-year-old cancer survivor from Rusizi District, said she is grateful to be alive and for having completed her chemotherapy treatment.

“I am grateful to have received my treatment at Butaro Cancer Centre. I encourage other women to opt for early detection as it is the best way treatment can have desired outcome,” Musabeyezu said.

The new centre will have outpatient clinic for oncology consultations for new and existing patients, modern chemotherapy mixing facility for both inpatient oncology unit and outpatient, patient support groups and outpatient IV chemotherapy, among other services.

The cancer ward, a 24-bed facility, regularly has more than 100 per cent bed occupancy.

Observers say the establishment of BACC comes in handy to help ease pressure on the facility.

BACC will decongest the cancer ward and restrict hospitalisation to those patients who require complex or more than one day IV chemotherapy infusions or those who are severely ill.

Meet the Faces Behind Rwanda’s Flourishing Women Cricket

IT started like any other day. Maina woke up and headed to class. The then senior four student concluded the day with a jog at the school’s play ground. As she went through the drills, she was summoned by the school cricket coach to join the rest of the team. Efforts to explain her self that she had never held a bat or played cricket fell on deaf ears.

“I was exercising in the school field; the girl’s cricket team coach mistook me for a cricket player. He called me to join the team, when I tried to explain to him that I was not a player he insisted and that is how I became a cricketer,” Mary Maina narrates.

This is how one of Rwanda’s best female cricketers ended up building a passionate bond with the game of cricket. Mary Maina represents the cream of female cricketers who hold the future of women cricket in Rwanda.

With the upcoming ‘UAE Exchange Money Express’ Women Cricket Tournament, it will be yet another opportunity for the female cricketers to showcase talent. Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi talked to Maina, who plays for the ‘White Clouds Cricket Club’ and Cathia Uwamahoro, a member of Charity Club, to talk about the sport, how it has gained popularity in Rwanda, their inspirations and the challenges they have faced.

Mary Maina:

Born on September 17, 1992 in Kenya, Maina started playing cricket in 2010 while at APRED Ndera Secondary School.

She says she has strong love for the sport. “I treasure this game and always reflect on the circumstances under which I joined the sport. I actually trained for three days with the school team and was instantly picked to be the captain of the team during the inter-schools competition. I encountered several challenges because I started playing the sport without knowing all the rules of the game. In other words, I learnt most of the rules of the game in the field during the inter-schools tournament.”

She says that at first she was also scared of the cricket ball given the fact that it’s very hard.

“I didn’t even know the history of the game as the captain of the team but it’s the cricket ball that always freaked me out. I always thought that if it hit me, it would cause great injury and it’s funny because in a few moments it hit me but I got minor injuries and that didn’t make me quit the sport,” Maina reveals.

She adds that being part of the U19 National Team that represented the country in Tanzania in 2011 inspired her into embracing the sport even more.

“I was happy about the trip and the game and I got to learn a lot from the 2011 tournament. But I am grateful to the local companies that have empowered us and introduced local tournaments for the women cricketers. This has greatly improved our skills in the sport,” Maina acknowledges.

Besides the inter-schools competitions that are held annually, the first female tournament was held in February 2013 under the name VR Naidu because it was sponsored by an Indian family known as Naidu. The White Clouds Club are the defending champions.

In September 2013, Maina is enrolling at the National University of Rwanda to pursue a Bachelor’s course in Pharmacy.

“As a child I always wanted to be a doctor to closely work with people and impact on their lives. Although I’m not going to offer medicine, I will ably serve people as a pharmacist. I will also continue playing cricket at university. I would also wish to encourage more girls to join cricket. It’s a gentle game and it’s the only game in sports where your opponent is your friend, even though you’re competing. Respect is encouraged all the time,” Maina reveals.

She continues, “The girls should not be scared of the bat because it is made of hard wood or that the ball is hard too. Cricket is very exciting.”

Currently there are about ten schools in Rwanda that have fully established the female cricket teams and six of these schools are based in Kigali.

Cathia Uwamahoro:

Uwamahoro was also introduced to the sport in 2008 at the age of fifteen.

“I used to watch cricket on television and I didn’t understand what it was but one day I got to see people training at our school in Gikondo and I sat down and watched. I did this often and one day the coach asked me if I wanted to join and I accepted although I was a basketball player at the time,” Uwamahoro narrates.

She adds that she quit basketball to play cricket.

“Because of the love I gradually attained for cricket, I learnt the rules of the game pretty fast and I was able to play for the U19 National Team in Kenya in 2008. I was also able to play in 2010 and 2011 in Tanzania and I learnt a lot and gained more skills in all these region tournaments,” Uwamahoro explains.

She adds, “At first I didn’t like fielding because I was afraid of the ball hitting me but with time, I over came my fears and I can now field, bat and ball because it’s required as a team player.”

She reveals that her favourite local player is Andre Kayitera and internationally, she is inspired by the cricket legend Brian Lala.

Charles Haba, the President of the Rwanda Cricket Association, says that in Rwanda, cricket was first embraced in December 1999.

“We aggressively embarked on training female cricket players in 2006 and several women development programmes in the sport were embraced. We have taken on these programmes mainly through schools but also additionally we have started a women’s league. There are not many countries that have a structured women’s league,” Haba reveals.

Rwanda Cricket Association, the official cricket governing body in Rwanda, is a representative at the International Cricket Council and is an affiliate member. It attained its membership in 2003.

“Something else that is a bit unique is that every tournament that we have held, we have played a double-header for the girls. Basically what it means is that parallel to the boys competition, we have the women’s tournament and that applies even when we are going to seek sponsorship or during corporate events. This has had a positive impact on the women cricket teams.”

He adds that before, girls would go for the regional cricket women competitions and play well but as a result of lack of exposure, lose to different teams.

“Our biggest challenge is the lack of facilities because we have one main ground therefore we have to use it for both the women and men’s tournaments. The other challenges are not really big and we are happy that the girls love cricket,” Haba discloses.

He continues, “There is need to encourage women and girls to embrace cricket. Something I have learnt in cricket is that girls are not as demanding as the boys, yet the levels of output and levels of success come out quicker than the boys. I will give you practical examples of the fantastic experiences we have encountered with the girls. The boys tend to ask for so much because they are so hungry for overnight success and want to be professionals in the shortest time but the girls will just want to pick up the bat and the ball to go and play. They are always happy to wait for their opportunity to play, without letting the little challenges affect them.”

There are currently four established women cricket teams/clubs in Rwanda; Queens of Victory, Kigali Angels, Charity and White Clouds.

Eric Hirwa, the Cricket Female National Team coach, says that in the earlier days, the girls’ main challenge was their parents granting them permission to play cricket. But that is gradually changing.

“With the development of the sport and the popularity it has gained, we now encounter a few situations or no situations at all where a parent has refused a player to come for training. When the girls master the game, after a few months they make it a point to come for regular training. However transport from their home to the training grounds is the main challenge they currently face,” Hirwa explains.

He encourages parents to let their girls come for training since it helps them improve their skills.

“We currently have about 30-60 girls that can actually attend regional competitions. They are about 15-20 years old and most of them are students. It’s also amazing how the girls learn the game so fast and become very passionate about it. It’s always important for someone to first love the game to actually perfect their skills in the sport,” Hirwa reveals.

According to Hirwa, female cricket teams train every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 3pm in Kicukiro.

Fitch Lifts Outlook on Rwanda on Economic Growth

Fitch Ratings revised Rwanda’s Outlook to ‘Positive’ from ‘Stable’ while simultaneously affirming Rwanda’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B’ and short-term foreign currency IDR at ‘B’. Fitch has also affirmed Rwanda’s Country Ceiling at ‘B’.

According to Fitch ratings, the revision of the outlook from stable to positive reflects continuing rapid and inclusive GDP growth in the future, high governance standards relative to regional peers, marked improvements in poverty reduction that attracted high levels of international support, and low public and external debt.

A sovereign rating indicates the rating agency’s opinion of a country’s credit worthiness, or in other words ability and willingness to meet its financial obligations in timely manner. Credit ratings, as opinions on vulnerability to default, do not necessarily imply a specific likelihood of a country’s defaulting on its payment.

This year’s rating is the fourth following the first in 2006, the second in 2010 and the third in 2011. At ‘B’, Rwanda’s rating is within the range of regional countries. A ‘Positive” outlook may imply to a certain extent possibility of rating upgrade provided continued positive trends in factors that triggered the upgrade in the outlook.

Rwanda’s Eurobond Oversubscribed

Rwanda’s debut US$400Million Eurobond has been over subscribed, a lead banker has revealed saying, “its well over subscribed as you can imagine”.

An investor source told media that the order book was $3 billion, or 7.5 times the issue size.

The 10-year dollar bond was issued on Thursday with a 6.875% yield, a lead banker said. That was at the tighter end of Rwanda’s final guidance of 6.875-7 %.

Investors were attracted by Rwanda’s strongly growing economy, low debt and recent political stability.

President Paul Kagame has been commended for presiding over Rwanda’s recovery after the 1994 genocide against the tutsi that claimed over a million lives.

Economic growth averaged 8.2% from 2006 to 2012 and the International Monetary Fund projects growth of 7.6% this year.

Rwanda’s debt levels are equivalent to 23.3 % of gross domestic product in 2012 and Inflation is in single digits.

US HAILS RWANDA FOR DOUBLE LIFE EXPECTANCY, LOW MATERNAL MORTALITY

The United States has praised the government of Rwanda for its tremendous strides in improving the lives of Rwandans by increasing the rate of life expectancy for its citizens and reducing the maternal mortality.

William J. Burns,

Speaking at the Africa Health Forum in Washington DC on Friday, the US Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns said that the country is on track to meet many of the Millenium Development goals despite challenges the country faced after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

In his key note address, the Deputy Secretary of state said that: “Rwanda, a country devastated by genocide less than two decades ago, is today on track to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals – life expectancy has doubled, maternal mortality and annual child deaths more than halved, and deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have dropped by 80percent.”

The US diplomat went on to thank the current African leadership for the dramatic transformation of the continent.

“We gather here today amidst a dramatic transformation of the African continent from a region once defined largely by its problems, to a region defined increasingly by its possibilities… from a region afflicted by conflict, crisis, and impoverishment to a region known more and more for its economic growth, expanding democratic governance, and enhanced health and human development,” said William J. Burns.

He emphasized that as the continent evolves, and as governments take on greater leadership and responsibility for their own future, the nature of assistance and cooperation from the international community should evolve as well – from a donor-recipient relationship to more of a partnership.

“This partnership – based on principles of country ownership, shared responsibility, and mutual respect – allows donors and partner countries to better meet the needs of the country’s population. Where transparency, good governance, and accountability are enshrined in law and in practice – our joint investments will yield more effective, more efficient, and ultimately more sustainable outcomes.

This is why sustainability and shared responsibility are two foundational principles of President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development and our global health diplomacy strategy.”

The US Deputy secretary of State told delegates that United States commitment to global health is strong, citing President Obama’s budget request for a $1.65 billion contribution to the Global Fund in fiscal year 2014 as US’s historically high level of support.

The Forum was attended by Ministers and representatives of Ministries of Finance and Health over two dozen African countries.

Rwanda is globally hailed for presenting a unique case in development and in the progress towards attaining the MDGs.