As preparations continue for Rwanda to host the next Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for next year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said they are preparing for up to 10,000 guests.
This, Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera says, will necessitate having an equal number of hotel rooms to be able to accommodate all the delegates for the high level meeting in which at least 52 heads of state are expected.
He was yesterday responding to MPs’ queries about the progress made in preparing for the meeting, as the ministry presented its budget framework for 2019/20 before the parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony.
“Preparations for the meeting are progressing well in terms of logistics. We have already reserved over 8,000 hotel rooms because the meeting will be attended by between 8,000 and 10,000 delegates,” he said.
According to Sezibera, these include five-star rooms for the at least 52 heads of state, CEOs and others.
“What gives us hope that the rooms will be available is that some delegates are coming to do their own reservations in hotels they choose,” he told the legislators.
He added that the delegates will not convene in one day, saying that there will be participants to several side meetings that are related to the main CHOGM summit.
“For instance, there will be the Women’s Forum at Serena Hotel, People’s Forum at Ubumwe Grande Hotel, a parliamentary forum and many other meetings taking place on different days along the meeting,” he told the MPs.
He added that concerning the issue of roads, the organising committee has agreed with the City of Kigali and the Ministry of Infrastructure about the upgrade of some roads to avoid congestion during the meeting.
“There are bypasses that will be built or be upgraded especially on the part of road from Kigali International Airport to the city centre. We are still discussing with the Ministry of Finance on the cost of planned upgrade but they have assured that it will be possible towards the end of this year.
“Upgrades at the airport have also been planned for under the budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” he said.
At national level, he said, government has set up ministerial steering committee to lead the preparations and it is led by the ministry of foreign affairs but composed of different other ministries and institutions.
There is also a taskforce led by the permanent secretary of his ministry.
The taskforce, Sezibera explained, has two arms; one of logistics led by Rwanda Convention Bureau and policy arm led by Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi, Rwanda’s High Commissioner in UK and James Kimonyo as well as a person in charge of its secretariat.
“We have proposed five CHOGM themes to be discussed which include governance and rule of law, ICT and innovation, youth, energy and environment, trade and business,” he said.
He said that there is a first policy draft with ideas content prepared in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and they will host the first consultative meeting on June 17.
Rwanda was in April last year, during CHOGM 2018 chosen to host the 2020 summit.
Held after every two years, the Summit is chaired by the Queen of United Kingdom and brings together heads of state of countries, most of whom former British colonies.
It is however expected that Prince Charles of Wales, the Queen’s son and next head of the British monarch, will chair the summit, due to the advanced age of his mother, who will be 94 next year.
The Commonwealth is a community of 53 countries – mostly former British colonies – with a combined population of about 2.4 billion.
Rwanda joined the bloc in 2009 becoming the second member to be admitted into the Commonwealth club of nations without any direct colonial ties to British, after Mozambique.
The meeting is one of many others in line with national strategy to generate revenues from conferences destination.
In 2014, Rwanda developed the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) strategy that seeks to make the country a top tourism and conference hub.
In the 2019/2020, Rwanda targets $88 million in revenues from conferences.