Rwandans living in rural areas are to benefit from a $6 million project, which has been designed to create more small businesses and income-generating activities. The Advancing Citizen Engagement Project (ACE), initiated by the government of Rwanda, Japan and the World Bank is projected to benefit 76,000 people — of which half are women — from 17,750 households. At least some 249 rural poor villages will benefit from the project through small grants. Claudine Marie Solange Nyinawagaga, the Director-General of the Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA), said the project will also help train government officials on how to engage citizens in local development planning. “This project will enhance our platforms for citizen participation at the local level, build the capacity of local and national authorities to lead development planning at the village level that involves and empowers all Rwandese,” she said. The project will be implemented by Spark Microgrants in partnership with local governments in Burera, Gakenke, Gicumbi, and Huye Districts. According to Rolande Pryce, the World Bank Country Manager, citizen engagement is critical to strengthening grassroots participation and sustainable rural livelihoods in Rwanda. She added that the support to local businesses will also help them recover from the impacts of Covid-19. Over 70 households in each target village will benefit from capacity-building for planning and savings groups. The support will include the identification of livelihood projects, and build villagers’ capacity for procurement, banking and record-keeping. Rolande Pryce ,World Bank Rwanda Country Manager and Masahiro Imai, the Japanese Ambassador for Rwanda during the meeting on September22. Masahiro Imai, the Japanese Ambassador for Rwanda, said that the support which comes in the wake of an unprecedented crisis, Covid-19, is timely as it will tackle challenges affecting the most vulnerable population. “In this project, more than half of the grant will go directly to small-scale, co-managed livelihood improvement activities that are essential to revive rural economies affected by the pandemic,” he said. He added this is fully in line with Japan Social Development Fund philosophy of supporting community-driven development and poverty reduction projects.