#PartyPolitics : Burundi
June 30, 2016
#GetToknow : Somalia
July 1, 2016

#Trailblazers: Rwanda

Rwanda is a small, landlocked country situated in Eastern-Central Africa. It is bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Rwanda is famously known for its civil war of 1994, commonly referred to as the ‘Rwandan Genocide’; however, Rwanda has maintained political stability since 1994.

The positive shift in the social, economic and health development of Rwanda – the land of a thousand hills – can be directly attributed to the personal strategy of its President, Paul Kagame. He ran Rwanda as a de facto leader from 1994-2000, when he was sworn in as vice-president and defence minister of the new, post-genocide government in July 1994. He continued to rule after the country’s first presidential elections in 2003 and again in 2010; Kagame has also gained approval by referendum, to stand for yet another unprecedented third term in 2017.

Foreign aid accounted for 20% of the country’s gross national income in 2011 with Rwandans receiving $113 a head1..Kagame understood that no country can depend solely on development aid; “such dependency dehumanizes us and robs us of our dignity2“. Hence he is  frequently seen selling people on Rwanda’s story and its promise, assuring them that Rwanda is itself a place where many can make a difference as well as generate profits – which seems to work as a successful social entrepreneurship strategy.

Rwanda has also experienced rapid and inclusive economic growth driven by a credible economic policy. The analysis of the country’s GDP per capita, displays growth from $575 in 1995 to almost $1,170 in 2012, when adjusted for purchasing power3.

The Rwandan government also boasts significant improvement within its health sector. The relevant outcomes are represented in the country’s facts and figures4, displaying a significant rise in life expectancy from 48 years in 2000, to about 62 in 2011. Deaths of children  the age of five has fallen from 230 per 1,000 live births in 1998, to 55 in 2012. Infant mortality dropped from 120 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998, to fewer than 40 in 2012. This positive development is not only due to the over 90% of Rwandans having access to medical insurance, but also,  the government has and continues to encourage innovation within the health services sector. An example of this innovation would be the new packaging for Coartem PSI – a drug cocktail from Novartis used to treat malaria. The packaging is specially created with graphics assisting illiterate mothers on how to dose their infants and toddlers. The government agreed to test this innovation across the country, and as intended, the packaging helped progress the drug’s usage and significantly cut the number of deaths from malaria.

According to the World Bank Group’s 2015 Doing Business Report, “Rwanda is the best performing country in East and Central Africa and third easiest place to do business in Africa5”. As a result of the economic and social developments leading to the country’s rise, the following additional facts about Rwanda support the characterisation of this country as a trailblazer6:

*Between 2001 and 2012, real GDP growth in Rwanda averaged 8.1% per annum: According to the Fitch rating agency, Rwanda is experiencing ‘rapid and inclusive economic growth driven by credible economic policy’.

*Rwanda made extraordinary progress in education when striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Net primary school attendance stands at over 91%.

*Rwanda is leading Africa’s digital revolution: The Smart Kigali initiative will create access to free wireless internet on public buses, in hospitals, taxi parks, commercial buildings and restaurants, while a partnership with Korea Telecom is creating access to 4G technology for over 95% of the population.

*Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament: over 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women.

*According to the Ibrahim index of African Governance, Rwanda is one of the only two countries to show consistent overall governance improvements since 2000: It is ranked number one in Africa for gender parity, and is one of the top five most improved countries since 2000.

*You can start a business within 48 hours in Rwanda: In comparison, it takes an average of 11.1 days in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries; all typically high income  nations.

                     Independence Year

                                  1962
                             President                             Paul Kagame
                           Government                                Republic
                            Capital City                                 Kigali
                            GDP (2016)                               $ 18.8bn7
                        Population (2016)                            11, 888, 8628
                              Religion Roman Catholic (26%), Protestant (11.1%), Sevent-day Adventist (4.6%), Muslim (1.7%)
                        Major language(s)                 Kinyarwanda, English, French
                              Currency                     Rwandan Franc (RWF)
                        Life Expectancy                                58 years9