11 May 2016
Kigali, Rwanda hosts the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa from 11 to 13 May 2016. The country is in the midst of an economic and social renaissance following over two decades of turmoil and uncertainty, building itself into one of Africa’s prominent emerging nations.
Here is a list of things about Rwanda and its people you might not know to help you understand how the country has grown in the last twenty years.
Gorillas and tourism
Despite initial concerns from environmentalists, Rwanda has shown that one of its most popular tourist attractions, the mountain gorilla and other primate species are fully protected and treated with respect from locals and tourists.
While prices to visit gorilla sanctuaries are considered steep, even for tourists, the majority of funds is put back into conservation projects which concentrates on increasing the numbers of endangered species. It also contributes to improving the lives of communities serving the sanctuaries. Conservation education is a high priority for the country resulting in a significant drop in gorilla poaching over the last ten years.
In addition to gorillas, Rwanda boasts a rich biodiversity that includes protected rain forest and mountain areas containing a variety of primate species, plant types, mammal and reptile wildlife. It is all protected and promoted over and above global conservation standards.
— Jordi Galbany (@jordigalbany) September 30, 2015
Coffee and economics
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, with 80% of the population involved in agriculture, primarily subsistence farming. The country’s chief export is award-winning coffee and tea. Starbucks Coffee is one of the largest importers of Rwandan coffee products, emphasising support for smaller coffee growers.
The country is heavily invested in microfinancing, economically developing small enterprise and encouraging entrepreneurship, particularly in rural areas. The focus of these cover a wide range of industries, including construction, transport, trade and services, production and processing of agricultural products.
According to the World Bank, between 2001 and 2015, Rwanda posted an average annual growth of real GDP of 8%. This was driven mainly by the higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The World Bank’s annual Doing Business 2016 survey selected Rwanda as the second easiest country in Sub-Saharan Africa to do business with.
In the post-genocide period, Rwanda received 100% foreign aid. In 2011, that number decreased to 40%.
According to the most recent McKinsey 7 Company’s report, Lions on the Move: The Progress and Potential of African Economies, Rwanda is ranked 6th on the continent.
No plastic bags
Littering and dumping in Kigali is illegal so it has unofficially become one of the cleanest cities in the world. On the last Saturday of the month citizens between 18 to 65 years old gather for compulsory community service called umuganda meaning “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome” – to clean up litter.
In 2008, the country implemented a nationwide ban on plastic bags, including removing bags brought in by tourists.
Rwanda banned plastic bags years ago when other countries impose taxes on plastic bags.If they can do it so can we. pic.twitter.com/lVS4Sd40rq
— Faye Peters (@fayepeters) March 31, 2016
Building new generations, building a future
According to stats from the World Health Organisation and the country’s ministry of health, Rwanda has seen a dramatic drop in infant mortality rates over the last ten years, dropping from 152 to 76 deaths per thousand.
Participation in secondary schooling has doubled since 2006, and the enrolment rate in primary education has far exceeded the set Millennium Development Goal (MDC) target of 91%.
Approximately 90.6% of Rwandans are enrolled in a community-based national health insurance system called Mutuelle de Sante. Begun in 1999, the system is arranged according to household allowance so people pay what they can afford. The system is installed in all hospitals and rural clinics. Life expectancy has doubled since the late 1990s to 63 years, according to the World Bank.
The country has invested in world-class road infrastructure, including a safe, reliable transport system serving as a link between its cities and rural areas.
Rwanda is a leading African digital nation, with free Wi-Fi available to all on public buses, in hospitals, taxi parks, commercial buildings and restaurants, and 95% of the population have 4G access.
Rwanda is ranked as the fifth safest country in the world, according to the Gallup Global Law and Order 2015 Report, after Singapore, Hong Kong, Norway and Spain.
The Rwandan parliament includes the highest percentage of female ministers in the world -63.8%.
According to the 2015 Ibrahim index of African Governance, Rwanda has displayed consistent overall governance improvements since 2000. It is ranked number one in Africa for Gender Equality and one of the top five most improved countries since 2000.