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.”
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.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Thursday his country will aim for average annual economic growth of 11.5 percent for the next five years.
“We have set ourselves a target of promoting this country’s economic development. We want economic growth to average 11.5 percent” for the period 2013-2017, Kagame told a government retreat.
“It’s a feasible target,” he went on, saying that the fact that Rwanda managed 8 percent growth in 2012 despite suspensions of foreign budget support was “a miracle”.
The 8 percent growth figure is according to the government. The International Monetary Fund put Rwanda’s 2012 growth at 7.7%.
In 2012 several donor countries suspended their budget support to Rwanda following accusations from the United Nations that Kigali was backing rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda has always denied the claims.
Nearly two decades after the 1994 genocide, 40% of Rwanda’s budget still comes from aid.
In February Germany unfroze some 7 million euros of aid and reallocated it for professional training.
Rwanda will be one of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world this year even as it braves challenges presented by aid cuts.
Last year, Germany, the US, Britain and the EU suspended part of their budget support for this year over allegation that the country was helping M23 rebels in the DR Congo
The Economist, in its latest report on global economic trends for 2013, indicated that Rwanda’s economy would grow at 7.8 per cent this year, making the country the ninth fastest-growing economy in the world and the second-best in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the global ranking of what it terms as ‘the top growers’, the paper has Mongolia, with a projected growth rate of 18.1 per cent, on top of the list followed by Macau at 13.5 per cent. Libya leads in Africa at 12.2 per cent. In sub-Saharan Africa, Mozambique is projected to register the highest growth at 8.2 per cent, with Rwanda, which is seen growing; at 7.8 per cent, on its heels.
This projection echoes that of the economic planners at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
The Economist termed Rwanda’s ranking, along with other star performers of the world, as part of a ‘more cheerful segment’ of an otherwise gloomy global economic outlook.
The newspaper also lauded Rwanda as one of the countries that have made tremendous progress over the last 10 years, enabling it to transform its economy towards a service-oriented one.
While reacting to the report, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) acting chief executive officer, Clare Akamanzi, affirmed that the country would this year achieve or even surpass its medium-term plan economic objectives.
“Rwanda’s economy has been on track, growing at over 7 per cent annually; therefore, the fundamentals for achieving this target are already in place. That is why analysts at The Economist and others rank Rwanda highly,” Akamanzi said.
The RDB Chief added: “What is most important for us is to increasingly build our economy’s competitiveness to attract more private sector investments. This is a key input for economic growth. ”
A Ministry of Trade and Industry 2012 preliminary economic performance review shows that the country’s investment rate (the per cent of investment to the gross domestic product – GDP) reached 25 per cent, surpassing the 21 per cent target set earlier.
Another key fundamental was the growth of exports that reached $429m, higher than the $344m targeted. The robust growth of the tourism sector was another factor.
The sector raked-in $263m in the 2011/12 period, exceeding the earlier target of $244m. This was also reflected on strong growth of Rwanda’s services sector.
Although the Central Bank had pegged the inflation rate at 7.5 per cent, it was contained at a commendable 4.6 per cent. Rwanda, The economist noted, achieved a “hat-trick” of rapid growth, sharp poverty reduction and lessened income inequality.
“Because of this, many donors were reluctant to stop or reduce aid, whatever the arguments that came up over the eastern DR Congo saga,” the publications added.
This performance is a good indicator that the suspension of aid would most likely not hurt the country as it continues guiding its economy towards its chosen path of transformation.
A critical examination of the tourism sector shows that 2012 was an impressive year.
With the sector generating $232 million by October 2012, compared to $204 million in 2011, it was the biggest foreign exchange earner.
The reason for the continued growth of tourism is the country’s security and stability that attracts visitors keen to see and enjoy the country’s various attractions.
President Paul Kagame, in his State of the Nation Address recently noted that it is critical that we strive to provide excellent service and customer care so that visitors to Rwanda leave as good ambassadors who will return and also encourage others to visit.
That aside, ensuring long term development of the tourism sector should be the country’s priority. This can be achieved through creating more tourism avenues to minimise pressure on Mountain gorillas and the national parks which are Rwanda’s traditional tourism attractions.
For example, Rwanda should promote heritage tourism. There should be a deliberate effort to encourage people to come and experience the unique places and activities that represent the stories of Rwandan tradition.
Heritage tourism is said to be the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry as the trend tilts towards an increase in specialisation among tourists.
There are many tourists who seek adventure, culture, history, archaeology and interaction with local people.
Rwanda is gifted with a rich historical, natural and cultural heritage which if properly harnessed, can potentially improve the socio-economic situation of Rwandans and provide employment through heritage tourism.
Apart from the national museum in Huye, there are other equally important museums and heritage sites in the country as well as intangible heritage like our traditional music which can help boost tourism in Rwanda.
It therefore requires the documentation of these sites and incorporation of the information into tourism itineraries or guides.
December 13, 2012
Rwanda has been getting a lot of attention lately, but not the good kind. With the possible appointment of Susan Rice to replace Hilary Clinton as US Secretary of State, many media outlets are digging up one of the more embarrassing moments in recent history, as the Western world stood idle while a genocide unfolded in this small Central African nation. In addition, the recent siege of Goma by the M23 rebels has attracted a certain level of suspicion over Rwanda’s motives in the region, while others have defended its stance on the conflict.
But leaving these two angles aside for the moment, all this coverage has ignored a more interesting story: that the Rwandan government has actually implemented ideas that work, resulting in a small economic miracle. Should other African governments pay attention?
Having moved beyond the horror of the 1994 genocide, even if the West has not, this nation of 10-million is experiencing fast growth based on tourism and services despite a near total absence of mineral wealth. Averaging above 8% GDP growth for the past five years, more than one million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty, according to the Rwanda Household Living Conditions Survey.
Unlike some other African nations who have struggled despite enormous mining exports and oil production, Rwanda’s business and service sectors account for two-thirds of GDP, having replaced agriculture. Tourism is a key part of the service sector, and multinationals are beginning to pay attention. Recently it was announced that Hotel giant firm Marriott is building one of its first three hotels in sub-Saharan Africa, with a 5-star, 250-room hotel in Kigali.
Marriott is eager to cash in on the promise of booming services, transportation, and logistics industries in the country, where thanks to strong education programs put in place by the government, foreign investors enjoy a particularly vibrant talent pool of recent graduates and experienced workers.
Rwanda has had more success than others in translating its economic growth toward solving social issues. The country has recorded a significant boost in the health sector where infant mortality dropped from 86 per 1000 live births in 2005 to 50 per 1000 live births in 2011. The strides made in the health sector have also spread to the use of contraceptives in a country with a very high population density, providing an improved public safety net against the threat of infectious diseases.
Infrastructure has been improving quickly. Households on the electricity grid have jumped from 91,000 in 2006 to 215,000 in 2011, according to government statistics.
Access to education improved sharply with primary school completion rates for 2011 reaching 79 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls, much higher than the overall targets of 59 percent and 58 percent respectively, while participation in secondary level education doubled from 2006 to 2011.
Instead of absorbing more and more donor aid without any visible improvement, Rwanda is actually taking less and less.
In 1995, donor accounted for 100% of the state budget, while today it is less than 40%.
The country is also trying to make some inroad in the technology sector, as Carnegie Mellon University has already opened a computer science training institute in Kigali, where ambitious young Rwandese gather to push forward an African innovation hub. The idea is that the university will be able to attract the brightest and most promising students and help build and support the nation’s IT sector to study in their own countries.
Rwanda is described by many experts as the most well connected country in Africa, boasting the fastest internet speeds on the continent. Thanks to this advantage, the government landed a crucial foreign investor with Visa, which launched a partnership with the state to develop a cashless economy.
Undoubtedly, many challenges remain for the political development of the country. The opposition complains of unfair treatment, while the authorities are often accused of meddling in the neighboring conflicts in the Congo, where untold wealths of diamond, gold, copper, and cobalt deposits are attracting many potential suitors from across the region and beyond, who are all positioning to be part of the opportunity.
But judging strictly by the social and economic progress achieved in the past decade, something is going right in Kigali, and that’s no small feat.
When Remy Uwamahoro heard about the Hang’Umurimo programme, he immediately knew it was the right time for him to seize the opportunity and grow his business.
The 33-years-old resident of Gasaka sector, Nyamagabe district, had always dreamt of running a big enterprise but had always failed to access loans due to lack of collateral.
The man, who dealt in timber, had an idea of venturing into the production of furniture to increase his revenues.
“I was in need of money, but banks had refused to offer me a loan because I did not have enough collateral for them to trust me,” Uwamahoro decries.
And, when Hang’Umurimo programme was introduced, he smiled. He sat down, took a pen and paper and, detail after detail, he wrote down his business plan.
After a thorough analysis by a panel of selected economists, his business project emerged the second in the whole Nyamagabe district, qualifying him to receive financial support under the programme.
Hang’Umurimo is a programme which aims at creating more than 200,000 off farm jobs annually.
Eligible candidates under the programme consist of two categories: established entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Those successful from each category qualify for loans of between 70 percent and 75 percent from the Business Development Fund (BDF). BDF is a government-owned fund established in every district to fund enterprises.
For Uwamahoro, the programme came as good news and a wonderful opportunity to make his dreams a reality.
When his project was presented to FINA Bank, it did not hesitate to offer him a loan.
Uwamahoro was granted a Rwf 25 million loan and received the first instalment last September while he expects the second this month; enough to fund his project.
“With the money, I bought four machines and started a joiner’s workshop,” he says.
And, though his investment is yet to make interests, he expects them sooner.
“I have extended my activities.
“From zero employees I had in the past, I now employ 21 people on permanent basis,” he says.
“My project is growing and I hope I will start to yield fruits sooner,” Uwamahoro optimistically notes.
Hang’Umurimo programme was introduced with the aim assisting aspiring entrepreneurs to access finance to fund their projects, and thus, generate jobs for members of the community.
Its rationale derives from the fact that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) not only create jobs but play a vital role in socio-economic development and are increasingly seen as central to creating and developing an entrepreneurial culture.
While launching the second phase of the programme in the Southern Province on Thursday, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Trade and Industry Emmanuel Hategeka noted that SMEs contribute significantly to employment creation, income generation and stimulation of growth in both urban and rural areas.
The European Union (EU) has pledged to fund major energy projects in Rwanda during the period running between 2013 and 2015.
Micheal Arrion, the EU head of delegation, announced this yesterday while speaking at the ACP-EU Energy Facility Forum that is underway in Kigali.
The two-day seminar focuses on promoting good practices regarding the implementation of energy projects, based on the experience of the already ongoing projects within the sector.
“The funding of the energy sector in Rwanda, is something new for EU, as you know, the rate of access of energy in the country is quite low, we want to help the government to improve those rates,” said Arrion.
He could however not specify the amount his institution was going to inject into the venture, saying it will be determined after thorough talks with the government and other stakeholders.
“We have been very active in funding roads rehabilitation, rural development, in particular, crop intensification programme, post harvest mechanisms and the justice sector. Energy development in Rwanda hasn’t been our priority area of intervention,” he said.
Arrion stated that it is in response to the 2013 Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 11) of Rwanda and within the framework of the division of labour among donors.
“After discussions and negotiations with the government, we do expect to have a final programme for the next five years from 2013-2018, where we will certainly focus the large part of our interventions and financial envelopes on energy sector,” he explained.
The forum that was organised by Danish Management Energy group, saw the launch of the call for proposals that will allow grants for an additional 68 energy projects.
The EU envoy pointed out that his organisation will focus mainly on renewable energy and major projects like hydropower and other energy sources that will help Rwanda improve the energy mix.
The meeting which has drawn participants from the eastern, central and southern Africa is held under the theme “improving access of energy services for the poor in rural and peri-urban areas”.
At the event, the State Minister in Charge of Energy and Water, Emma Francoise Isumbingabo said Rwanda recognises that lack of reliable and affordable electricity as a critical issue impacting the economy and a major obstacle to the improvement of living conditions of the rural population.
“Our country’s target is to initiate energy sources to have access rate at 70 percent by the year 2017. In order to achieve this goal, the government is encouraging public-private development approach that will boost the expansion of generation capacity to energy mix comprising of hydro-power, methane gas, geothermal, peat among others, to have 1,000 megawatts on stream,” she explained.
Rwanda has risen two places in the overall ranking of the latest Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) to 23rd.
Rwanda has been part of seven countries that have significantly improved in their overall governance score since 2000 to 2011, according to the Index. The others are Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
This is the sixth year in which governance outcomes in Africa have been measured, looking at both country and regional performances across four major categories -Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development – and 88 component indicators.
According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mauritius came top in the overall index, followed by Cape Verde, Botswana and the Seychelles, continuing the same pattern as last year. Somalia was last, a position it has occupied since the index was first published. The country came last in each of the four category rankings. Somalia’s overall score has declined since 2006. Tanzania moved into the top 10 for the first time this year, while Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola registered significant improvements. Sudan and South Sudan were not included this year.
Speaking ahead of the index launch on Monday, the Sudanese-born philanthropist Mo Ibrahim told the Guardian that what Africa needs is a balanced development.
“Economic success cannot be a replacement for human rights or participation, or democracy … it doesn’t work,” he said. “It worries us a lot when we don’t see the trickle-through factor, when gain goes to the top 1per cent or 2 per cent, leaving the rest behind.”
Ibrahim also advised the governments in Kigali and Kinshasa together with their friends to sit down and talk to find a lasting solution to the chaos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Its not in anybody’s interest to leave the eastern part of Congo in chaos. Rwanda and Congo need to sit down an find a solution,” he said. “Move away from name calling and finger pointing. Its time for the parties to sit together with the help of their friends and find a solution to the chronic problem of Congo.”
The biggest announcement of the night however was that there is no winner of the 2012 Mo Ibrahim Prize for African leadership.
The $5-million prize, which is awarded each year to a democratically elected president who showed excellent leadership and a commitment to good governance, serves to encourage leaders of African countries to leave office after their terms expire instead of clinging onto power.
There have been only three winners – former presidents Festus Mogae (Botswana), Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Pedro Verona Pires (Cape Verde) – since the prize was set up six years ago.
According to the prize committee, no candidate had met all of the tough criteria this year.
“If we say, ‘we’re going to have a prize for exceptional leadership,’ we have to stick to that. We are not going to compromise,” Ibrahim said. “We’re not saying, every year we have to find somebody.”
The $5-million award is given over 10 years followed by $200,000 a year for life.
With over 280 bird and 13 primate species and spreading over 1000 square kilometres, Nyungwe National Park is one of the most acclaimed biodiversity rainforests in Africa.
The park also boasts a diverse ecosystem from rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, rivers, butterflies, moths and insects.
Last week, I travelled to Nyungwe with a group of about 30 local journalists and, together, we embarked on a thrilling adventure, walking down the hills and crossing valleys trekking for monkeys and chimpanzees and visiting other wildlife attractions.
A variety of hiking and walking trails crisscross the Park, leading to its varied attractions.
“Nyungwe is a hotspot for biodiversity,” Louis Rugerinyange, the Chief Park Warden at Nyungwe who led our party along the forest’s trails, says.
On day one, we undertook a long tracking adventure as we looked for the white and black colobus monkeys-one of the many primate species in Nyungwe Park.
Walking on a sloppy ground for about one hour was realistically a very difficult exercise to some of us, who fell down several times, as one of our guides led us through the jungle.
A monkey tracker, only identified as Simon, told me he has now spent over 15 years in the forest following monkeys and other primates.
After a tedious journey, of over one hour, we started hearing voices from deep within the forest, as trees were shaking.
Finally, we have arrived, Simon ushers to the excitement of many within our group.
Simon says there are about 600 white and black colobus monkeys in Nyungwe park, which he says live together in groups.
“They usually move together from one place to another,” Simon explains.
“We have to follow their movement on a daily basis to know the exact place where they are”.
The tracker, 60, says his job ends late in the evening and starts early in the morning-at about 5am-so as to make sure he does not lose track of the monkeys.
“Every morning, they make loud noises, making it easy for me to track them,” Simon says.
“As they move from one place to another, I follow them,” Simon told me as we observed the acrobatic antics of the primates jumping from one tree to another, from one place to another.
These colobus monkeys are one of the many species of primates found in Nyungwe.
Watching their gymnastic and flexible movements within the jungle, one feels relaxed from the pain of the long walk to reach this place.
According to Rugerinyange, visitors always have a chance to witness their movement thanks to knowledgeable and devoted trackers.
But Nyungwe’s magnet does not end on chimpanzees and monkeys as the Park offers a wide variety of other attractions.
One of them, the Kamiranzovu waterfalls is located deep in the forest, in the middle of two elevated hills and is reached after approximately one and half hours foot walk. And the park’s various trails give an opportunity to explore the different spectacular aspects of the jungle, observing birds, mammals, trees, orchids and other wildlife plant species, among other exciting attractions.
The forest walks are excellent and last from one to eight hours and a one to three days overnight hike, according to officials.
Notwithstanding the various attractions in the park, the Canopy Walkway remains one of the best places to experience as it offers a magnificent view of the canopy and it gives a great site for bird-watching.
The walkway is constructed on the Igishigishigi trail and is reached after about a one hour stride from the Uwinka visitor centre.
The Canopy walk is suspended at a height of about 60m above the ground and goes over giant trees.
Ildephonse Kambogo, the director of Tourism in Nyungwe Park, says the 150 meters walkway is the first in East Africa and the third in Africa.
“While on the walkway, tourists have a good view of the park,” Kambogo summarises.
The silver Canopy Walkway is narrow and shaky as a result of its altitude and as tourists move on it, one hears things cracking.
Its shaky nature makes many tourists fear for their safety, though officials here affirm it is very safe.
The canopy can carry a total of four tonnes at a time, according to Rugerinyange.
“It is safe, no one can fall,” assures Juarez, a Brazilian who is part of the team who set up the pathway.
But as we kept our walk on the above-the-ground way, many did not believe the assurances given and thought they would collapse.
In the middle of the walk one lady in our group stopped and asked to return back. She was so terrified that the guide found it difficult to make her overcome her fears and continue her journey till the end.
At some point, the tour guides stopped the group to listen to the forest but on the faces of some, prayers were flowing-they were seemingly thinking only of getting to the end as fast as possible.
“I won’t come back,” one woman told me as we reached the end of our walk.
But the majority enjoyed the experience and the view of the park while crossing the path. For them, as it was for me, the walk was a scary but thrilling and worthy exercise.
A Canadian tourist I met at the canopy walkway, who identified himself as Normand, told me he was “so excited” and “did enjoy” the walk.
“We are alive and so happy,” Normand, who was accompanied by his wife, told me as they ended the walk.
“Rwanda is really, really nice,” he added.
While the beauty of Nyungwe National Park remains unknown to many, efforts are being made to attract many tourists.
For Dr James Seyler, the Chief of Party of Nyungwe Nziza Project, which seeks to strengthen ecotourism in Nyungwe Park, there is a reason to visit the Park.
“The place (Nyungwe) is beautiful and there are a lot of things to see and a lot of things to do,” he says.
What you need is just to be in Nyungwe and witness the beauty of Rwanda, he concludes.