The race for Africa’s fastest-growing economies is a tight one, and after being ranked the fastest-growing economy with a 7.9% growth rate by the African Development Bank in January 2023, Rwanda’s efforts to maintain that trajectory are best depicted with the classic saying “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” The Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events (MICE) has thrived significantly since the pandemic subsided, and this year’s events calendar tackled a variety of issues such as social justice, gender equality, digital literacy, and sports empowerment — and here’s a roundup of the events that stood out: FIFA Congress Convening over 2,000 of the most influential figures in global football, the 73rd FIFA Congress hosted in Kigali from March 13 to 17 set the tone for the quality of events the year had to offer. Aside from the eminent global exposure Rwanda received from hosting the FIFA Congress, the week-long occasion provided entrepreneurs, especially those in the fashion industry, with the opportunity to elevate their brands and businesses with public figures that command an international diverse audience, which is no small feat. Some of the highlights of the congress included the re-election of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who was running unopposed. Another key highlight, especially for stakeholders on the local fashion scene, was Adriana Lima’s presence throughout the event, and the opportunity to dress/ accessorise a former Victoria’s Secret model. BAL Since its inception in 2021, Kigali’s BK Arena has been the host of the Basketball Africa League playoffs in May every year, proceeding the season’s early beginnings in Cairo, Egypt, and Dakar, Senegal. The third BAL season from May 21 to 27 was arguably the most vibrant season the franchise has had in Kigali. PICTURES: Al Ahly crowned BAL 2023 champions Based on the multiple games scheduled to happen within the seven-day space, and the cost-effective ticketing strategies in place, the BK Arena was often a full house for 2023 BAL games, and most of the games, especially the opening and closing matches were sold out, regardless of whether Rwanda’s REG team was playing or not, which is a testament to sport’s ability to bring people together. Aside from the variety of games, the BAL hosted side events aimed at elevating the sports sector, benefiting society, and empowering young women to join the sports ecosystem. The BAL week was star-studded, and some of the celebrities in attendance included actors Forest Whitaker, Boris Kodjoe, and Pearl Thusi alongside Joakim Noah, a retired NBA basketball player, and Jamaad Fiin, an emerging Somali basketball player on the rise. Women Deliver Women Deliver is one of the biggest gender and social justice movements on the globe, and Rwanda played host to its first-ever conference in Africa, which was monumental. Convening over 6,000 in-person delegates from across the globe to discuss issues such as gender disparity, unequal pay, discrimination, and inclusivity, among others, the conference began on July 17 and ended on July 20. ALSO READ: Women Deliver: Five key outcomes from Kigali meet Mobile World Congress Often referred to as Africa’s most influential connectivity event, the Mobile World Congress on October 17 to 19 convened a variety of IT experts and broad technology practitioners to achieve digital transformation and elevation. ALSO READ: We must address mobile access with a sense of urgency – Kagame The congress addressed issues such as digital literacy, access to 5G internet, and digitising essential services like healthcare for society’s betterment. World Travel Tourism Council The WTTC Summit was hosted at the Kigali Convention Center from November 1 to 3. The summit was graced by President Paul Kagame and one of its highlights at the time was his reiteration that citizens of African countries no longer require a visa for entry to Rwanda. ALSO READ: Travel, tourism investment to increase by 11 per cent in 2023 The summit also addressed how the costly expense of air travel to Africa and within Africa hinders tourism growth, alongside other discussions tailored for the betterment of the tourism sector. The annual summit by the World Travel Tourism Council is the single most influential space bringing together industry leaders from across the globe to discuss the future and development of the tourism sector. Kwita Izina The 19th ceremony of Kwita Izina in September 2023 was arguably the most successful edition yet. Hosted in Kinigi on September 1, the gorilla naming ceremony brought together quite a number of people, but it was the namers of the year that were most intriguing; Kwita Izina featured comedian Kevin Hart, ‘Black Panther’ actors Danai Gurira and Winston Duke, alongside Idris and Sabrina Elba, Joakim Noah, Sol Campbell, Bernard Lama, and Queen Kalimpinya, making the ceremony the most star-studded it’s ever been. ALSO READ: Kwita Izina: What gorilla namers said about Rwanda Trace Awards In celebration and acknowledgment of its 20th year in business, Trace held its inaugural award show and festival in Kigali from October 20 to 22. The global music platform brought together African mainstream artistes such as Rema, Davido, Yemi Alade, Diamond Platnumz and so many more. ALSO READ: Trace’s Laouchez reflects on awards in Rwanda, lessons learnt and what the future holds With a red carpet entrance that had participants dressed to the nines and various meticulous performances all through the event, the award show was undoubtedly an unforgettable occasion for all. Trace was also the first award show hosted at the BK Arena, making it monumental in more than one regard. Giants of Africa Since 2003, Giants of Africa has been hosting basketball camps for boys and girls to attain not only more basketball skills but also education, and exploration of diverse cultures. Spearheaded by Masai Ujiri, co-founder of Giants of Africa, the sports development organisation held its inaugural weeklong festival in Rwanda from August 13 to 19. ALSO READ: Giants of Africa: Six memorable highlights The festival convened 250 girls and boys from 16 African countries for a week-long basketball camp. The festival also featured captivating opening and closing ceremonies with artistes such as Davido, Diamond Platnumz, Tyla, and Sherrie Silver taking centre stage to deliver eloquent performances in celebration of African heritage. TIME100 Summit and Impact Awards Africa Put together by the world-renowned TIME magazine, the TIME100 Summit and Impact Awards have become an annual occasion meant to celebrate the most influential people in the world, and Rwanda’s Kigali Convention Center was the proud host of the inaugural African edition of the summit on November 17. ALSO READ: Kigali’s TIME100 Impact Awards Africa honourees revealed TIME100 was part summit, part gala, and convened some of Africa’s most influential figures to discuss the challenges plaguing the continent, and how to solve them. Some of the discussions featured the likes of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, actress Danai Gurira and Minister of State for Health, Yvan Butera, in discussions centred on gender equity, unequal pay, healthcare, and financial inclusion to mention but a few. The summit was proceeded by an exclusive evening gala to honor the nominees of the year. Former honourees of TIME100 include Idris and Sabrina Elba. Move Afrika Move Afrika: A Global Citizen Experience was an inaugural international music touring circuit whose first stop was a concert in Kigali, headlined by Grammy-winning artist Kendrick Lamar. The concert was sold out despite the high ticketing and featured local talents Bruce Melodie, Ariel Wayz, Tanzanian artiste Zuchu, and award-winning Rwandan choreographer Sherrie Silver. PHOTOS: Move Afrika throws Kigali into mid-week frenzy Lamar’s captivating 70-minute performance was described by most as “the best concert Rwanda has ever seen” and that could be attributed to his eloquent stage presence, meticulously choreographed dances, and an undeniable vocal prowess that had the crowd at the edge of their seats.