22 - 24 Sep 2020

Kigali Convention Centre

Rwanda is a shining example of good news from Africa

You may be surprised it's coming from Africa, a continent that usually attracts attention only in the context of crisis, conflict, famine, natural disasters and eye-popping levels of graft and corruption.  

It's almost as if we don't have the vocabulary to discuss African issues in anything other than a horror-stricken fashion.  But the truth, as always, is more nuanced and, especially over the past decade or so, Africa is in many ways coming into its own. 

My particular affinity is with Rwanda, where I lived and worked for three years. As it happens, as I write, I am in the capital, Kigali, to run some training workshops. Fortunately for me, it coincides with the 25th anniversary of the country's liberation from genocide on July 4, 1994, which will allow me to join with friends to celebrate Rwanda's remarkable progress since then.

Rwanda has managed growth of about 8 per cent year on year since 2001, with GDP set to grow by roughly that again in 2019. As a result, the national budget is less and less dependent on foreign development assistance, with domestic tax revenue growing twenty-fold in the past two decades. 

According to the World Bank's Doing Business Report 2019, Rwanda is the second-easiest place to do business in Africa, and ranks among the top 10 global reformers. Meanwhile, private sector investments increased massively from US$400 million in 2010 to US$2 billion by 2018.

Rwanda has the highest proportion of women in politics of anywhere in the world, making up 63 per cent of parliament and 50 per cent of the cabinet. It's not just in the realm of politics – the country ranks fourth globally as the best place to be a woman, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness report.

Key public health advances underpin this.  Rwanda is among a handful of countries to achieve two critical Millennium Development Goals as they affect women and families: to reduce infant mortality rates by two-thirds compared to 1990; and slash maternal mortality by 75 per cent, as well as achieving universal access to reproductive health. Meanwhile, an estimated 90 per cent of Rwandans have health insurance and more than 99 per cent of children receive vaccinations (as intelligent people, Rwandans have no time for anti-vaxxers).

As for community safety and crime, my impression of Kigali as a safe, well-run city is also reflected in global rankings: in a 2018 Gallup Law and Order report, Rwanda rated the second safest country in Africa.

Also noteworthy is how the country has emerged in recent times as peacekeeper, now the sixth major contributor of troops and police to the UN, with more than 4000 deployed to trouble spots such as South Sudan and Mali since 2004.  Given the shocking systemic and political failings of the UN in 1994, we should be grateful the country is applying its hard-earned wisdom to post-conflict rebuilding and reconciliation.

For the same reason, Rwanda plays an outsized role in promoting the Responsibility to Protect doctrine through the UN, which aims to prevent outbreaks of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, 

Rwanda even manages to show leadership on climate change. In October 2016, negotiators from 170 countries met in the capital to cement key updates to the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 deal to prevent ozone depletion.  The Kigali Amendment, which came into effect in January this year, is designed to reduce the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons and greenhouse gases and curtail global warming by up to 0.4 degrees Celsius this century.

Meanwhile, Rwanda, it should be noted for New Zealand audiences, banned plastic bags years ago – and hasn't looked back once.  via @NZStuff