April is when the wet season begins in Rwanda; the rains however bring haunting memories of the genocide that claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans. History records the genocide as the deadliest since The Jewish Holocaust. Nearly everyone lost a family member, friend, neighbor or colleague. Sadly, the world remained mute to the massacres with the Catholic Church virtually fuelling it. Only recently did Pope Francis apologise to Rwandans for the role of the Catholic Church in the genocide
As the genocide wound up, dead bodies littered the streets of Kigali, the country’s capital, the economy shrunk by 50%, hyper-inflation was at 64% and GDP per capita income dropped to $143. Bereaved and distraught the small country at the heart of Africa needed to be rebuilt. Today, the Rwandan narrative is changing.
Kagame’s Economic Policies
The extra ordinary emergence of Rwanda has centered predominantly on one man, Paul Kagame. His leadership and economic policies significantly helped the ailing country rapidly heal from the disease of ethnic division. Trading Economics reports that the country’s GDP averaged an unbelievable 43.33% between 2000-2016.
Paul Kagame led the forces that ended the genocide and was elected President when Rwanda was on the brink of collapse. With a growing population of 12 million, the country has taken gigantic strides under Kagame’s economic development plan. African Renewal reports that ‘Tarred, dual-carriage roads crisscross Kigali, providing a seamless connection between urban settlements and the fog-covered countryside uplands. The city is now a preferred destination for many organizers of international conferences.’
Asides massive investment in infrastructure, Kagame’s superb public speaking skills have lured Foreign Direct Investment from business moguls like Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) and Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks). Kagame’s leadership and public speaking charm has earned him numerous speaking platforms at Ivy League Schools across.
His economic policies have supported growth in new industries such as tourism and fish farming while consolidating and improving revenues from coffee, tea and tin. His attention is fixed now on harnessing the power of technology to spur growth and solve Rwanda’s economic challenges. The government liaising with private enterprises is increasing connectivity to the internet in order to engage youths positively and serve as job-creation.
Building Rwanda from shambles
Paul Kagame applied various techniques in rebuilding the country. Through the initiative for ‘peace building education’ Kagame sought to forestall a resurgence of the genocide by building the minds of the younger generation against violence and towards acceptance of ethnic diversity as strength.
President Kagame and his administrators drafted a long-term strategy for economic development in 2000 by launching an ambitious initiative; VISION 2020. Its main objective is to transform the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country, thereby reducing poverty and health problems.
The economic road map is concentrated on environmental and sustainable goals; it involves boosting the urban populace by providing the basic necessities for total wellbeing of the people, sustainable management of land, water and biodiversity to guide the rapid development of the country.
Kigali’s official website highlights a plan to ‘bring forward the most cutting-edge ideas for city and infrastructure planning, based on the three prongs of sustainability: Ecology, Equity and Economy. Sustainable management of land, water and biodiversity guided the development plan insofar as these elements are essential factors for integrated urban design’ By 2015 the country could boast of being one of the 6 African countries that survived casualties but stood strong and developed rapidly without losing its sovereignty or seizing to be a nation.
A glimpse into Rwanda’s future
Beyond all doubts the last two decades revealed how Rwanda fought its way out of the eminent disaster. The most recent, the 2040 project will transform Rwanda into a city of affordable homes and green transport, ensuring reduced air pollution, congestion and conserve the city’s environment. Leading this new frontier are private organizations, local government, non-governmental organizations and civil societies. There is a need to make African countries livable and functional to enable them serve as tools for peace-building in post-conflict countries. While economic growth cannot always erase history, history however, must be remembered for its lessons.