When Kigali stood still it was easy to see why it works

This past week was a really interesting time for one to be in Kigali. It was a time when so much seemed to be happening and yet a lot also seemed not to be working. There have been times when the city felt frozen like this but this time was quite different in many ways.

This past week was a really interesting time for one to be in Kigali. It was a time when so much seemed to be happening and yet a lot also seemed not to be working. There have been times when the city felt frozen like this but this time was quite different in many ways. The last time it felt close to this was Kigali hosted the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Some roads were closed off to allow him to move around easily.

This time Kigali was hosting several African leaders for the landmark signing to create the African Continental Free Trade Area. This was at the 10th Extraordinary African Union Summit and 44 countries signed the free trade agreement while 27 signed the protocol on free movement of people, right to residence 43 accepted the idea of creating Africa’s single market.

With so many African leaders and other officials in the country, again some key roads were blocked to traffic to ease the movement of the visiting dignitaries from the airport to the Kigali Convention Centre as well as other hotels where they were residing. This resulted in anger inducing traffic hold ups almost paralysing everything.

For you to move from one part of the city to another often required paying exorbitantly for a motorcycle taxi and praying that the rains allow you got to your destination by wading through scores of cars parked on the roads with engines switched off. This also meant that the motorcyclists would have to use lots of alternative routes to try and avoid the roads that had been sealed off. In some ways it felt like a Kigali city tour on a Boda Boda, something that is now trendy in Kampala thanks to an innovative fellow called Walter and his Boda Boda tours.

My main challenge was to find a way to get to Kigali Serena Hotel so as to attend the Young Africa Works strategy launch by the Mastercard Foundation. Like a seasoned rally driver or a smart planner, I used the day before the event to get a motorcycle taxi from the Remera side of town and make my way to the central business district. This helped me gauge and map out a route for the next two days.

The next day, I was part of a media tour with officials from Mastercard Foundation as well as their local partners. We visited a bakery shop in Nyakabanda run by a young graduate from the Akazi Kanoze programme. It rained heavily that day and when we were done the rain also decided to stop. That is when I noticed my Kenyan colleague was filming drainage water. It was a bit awkward given that during the real tour we had come for; he had not even used his phone to take photos of anything.

He later explained that he was simply awestruck by the fact that it was only water going through the drainage channel. He quickly added that if it were Nairobi, the water would also have lots of plastic bottles, human waste and so much more all flowing and eventually clogging the drains thus leading to flooding as was the case a few days back. In other words, while the city was on a standstill my Kenyan colleague were seeing what really works in Rwanda that other places like Nairobi can copy.

Indeed this was a running theme during the Young Africa Works strategy launch as many spoke out that Rwanda had a lot to teach the rest of Africa on what works. We are living at an interesting time when a country that was literally buried during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi rose from the doldrums to become an example of good governance.

The leadership that Rwanda in general and President Paul Kagame in particular are offering to the continent is being noticed by many people and it is no wonder that the Mastercard Foundation chose Rwanda to host its first office on the continent and a launch pad for the Young Africa Works strategy. The foundation has committed $100m for two programmes for the next five years.

Hanga Ahazaza initiative will focus on supporting the tourism and hospitality sector as it is considered key in the development of Rwanda and for creation of jobs for many young people. The second programme, Leaders in Teaching will aim at improving the quality of teaching and teachers in the country especially at the secondary and tertiary levels.

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