It is that time of the year when the lights are dimmed and candles are lit for people to remember and reflect on this country’s darkest moment in 1994 when over a million lives were lost in the infamous Genocide against the Tutsis. This year’s commemoratory theme is “Learning from our history to build a better future.”
The events of 1994 did not only cost this country lives but also crucial human resources needed to build the economy. The educated were killed for their success but even the uneducated were not spared. The businessmen of those days were either victims of the
massacres or sponsors of the sick spirit of ‘you are either with us or with them.’
When the killing was stopped by the gallant Rwandan Patriotic officers and men, the economy was not just in shambles but was literally none existent. The coffers had been looted by the fleeing killers and life had returned to a subsistence situation for many.
The country needed urgent rebuilding and reconstruction. As we reflect on the future of the country it is important to take note of the huge strides that have been taken in the last 18 years. Almost from zero, the Rwandan economy has risen and jumped onto a fast track that has seen it become a beacon of hope not only in the country itself but also in the region.
In the past 18 years, Rwanda’s economy has risen on the strength of sound economic policies that have kept inflation and corruption at the minimum. Great regulatory regimes have seen investors flocking to Rwanda in droves. It is almost impossible to find many global and regional brands that have not opened up a presence in Rwanda yet.
Whether it is Visa international, Carnegie Mellon University or Nation Media Group, Rwanda has been identified as a decent place to do business from. When Rwanda applied to join the EAC many saw it as a move that Rwanda needed more but the exodus of businesses into Rwanda is proof that Rwanda is also needed by investors.
The construction industry has grown in leaps and bounds with new roads and buildings coming up every now and then. The city’s skyline has been blessed with several new structures over the years that soon office space will be more than enough at least in the short run. Structures like Centenary House have been joined by the Union Trade Centre,
Kigali City Tower, Kigali City Market, Pension House and several others.
Places like Kimironko that used to be just bush land are now small cities with a bus park, several bank branches, numerous supermarkets, pharmacies all found on the ever increasing storied office buildings that line the road from the Chez Lando hotel area all the way to the bus park. I was actually surprised that from Chez Lando to the bus park, there are three branches of Bank of Kigali!
Every now and then the country has to deal with awesome performance reviews from the World Bank and other institutions that are amazed by the recovery and progressive trends taken. Tourism and ICT have also been prioritised to sell and steer the country’s development. It would be a joke if someone who was here in 1994 said that nothing changed.