Twenty-four years ago, Rwanda was almost a failed state, during an infamous 1994 genocide, where more than one million people were killed. Rwandan socio-economic and political life was terribly affected.
Poverty and illiteracy was ravaging over a half of Rwandans. The despair in which Rwandans (As the main treasure of the country) lived, couldn’t do any better to the country’s economy. The national GDP was only $575 in 1995.
To date, Rwanda’s economy is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. It has been able to make important economic and structural reforms and sustain its economic growth rate over the last two decades. Since 2001 to 2014, Rwanda notched up GDP growth of around 8% per year. So far 2017 economic growth grew 6.2 per cent.
Almost from scratch, this achievement may seem outstanding. What’s the engine for all this stunning escalation?
President Paul Kagame has been the vice president of a transitional regime since 1995. He became an acting president of Rwanda since 2000 and was voted in 2003. Since then, the face of Rwanda Government that had been painted ugly by the preceding republics was put to an end. Citizens became the priority of the government policies. Several policies were aiming to improving lives of citizens sustainably. Accountability and transparency was a collective responsibility to the government. Rwandans now seem to believe that the country would be revived, if each citizen was involved.
The government set significant pillars to carry the development drive, depending on cultural and traditional values of Rwandans. For instance: Imihigo, Itorero, Umuganda and Ubudehe are all based on Rwandan culture.
Imihigo are meant to make leaders more committed, decisive and accountable.
Itorero is there to teach Rwandans from different age and sectors, their history, culture, and how important patriotism is.
Conviction of self-reliance and home grown solutions are the key to dignity and development.
Many citizen-centered policies were put into action to enable Rwandans to lift themselves from poverty and brighten their future. VUP (Vision Umurenge Program), Girinka program, Mituelle de Santé and other sensitizing programs were initiated with the target to improving well-being, social and economic ability.
Citizens enjoy fully their rights and accomplish their responsibilities. Two consecutive years ago, presidential and parliament elections were held calmly and safely with highly social attendance of over 95%.
Invest in their people
In 2011, President Kagame in an interview with Lerato Mbele in Davos, Switzerland, said
“The model of growth is built on people. It’s how you invest in people both in health and education and enable them have skills on which they can depend and which can make them competitive, not only regionally but also globally. We have sought to do this because this has no limit. You may invest in agriculture and realize its full potential but there is a limit to this, considering the size of the country, scarcity of land, etc. But with education, knowledge and skills there is no limit –the sky is the limit.”
Rwanda has been strongly focusing on education, health, and safety of Rwandans. The country’s literacy rose from 64% in 2002 to 71% in 2009 upshot from the education that accounts for 15% of the national budget. Education is now for all. Strategic initiatives were established, such as fee-free 9 and 12 Years Basic Education, One Laptop per Child, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). They all aimed to enhance learning by integrating theory and practice ability of Rwandans.
Rwanda is among the best countries that reduced maternal mortality on an average annual rate of 8.6% from 2003 to 2015. Health centers and hospitals were spread around the country to ease the delivery of health related services, such as family planning, children immunization, HIV treatment, etc. For just 3000 Rwf per year, for public health insurance scheme Mituelle de Santé health services for Rwandans became very affordable.
Regardless of the most deteriorated security in 1990s in Rwanda, today, it is the 9th and the 1st safest country in the world and in Africa, respectively. In addition, Rwanda National Police is the most reliable police force in Africa according to WEF report. The government understands that keeping citizens safe, healthy and educated is the best way to sustain the development.
Not more than 10 years ago, the government of Rwanda started broadening industrialization sector, mostly through attracting foreign capital that can be a key part of effective growth plan. Home grown solutions, like Made in Rwanda and tourism, that welcomes all kinds of investments from outside the country, were unleashed. The policy was fostered when Rwanda loosened travel restrictions by ‘Visa-on Arrival’ regime last year to make it simple for fellow Africans to come to Rwanda.
This year, Visit Rwanda initiative went viral when Rwanda signed the advertising deal with English Famous Football Club ‘Arsenal’ for three years. September this year, Kwita izina (Gorilla naming) attracted more than 6000 people from across the globe. In 2017, the direct contribution of tourism to GDP was RWF 383.0bn (5.2% of GDP). Tourism is becoming a leading source of foreign exchange for Rwanda.
Rwanda’s renaissance, resilience and economic turnaround, is a remarkable success story that can inspire the best case scenario of what good governance, and thoughtful citizenship can bring to Africa.