GIVEN the structure of the Rwandan economy, there is evidently no room for extensive and primitive expansionist methodology to generate output in the economy.
Looking at such natural and structural constraints facing our economy, it’s paramount to take on a service driven and intensive development model as an engine of socio-economic drift from the current growth constraints
The current efforts to develop enabling infrastructural facilities like an overhauled national airline, amenities for business tourism like conference centers and a spacious airport to promote the growth of the service sector are a formidable force to drive all the growth initiatives in the economy.
A well functioning national airline takes precedence in facilitating this kind of growth. With a sound and prominent national carrier for instance, given Rwanda’s landlocked status, and the nature of its terrain, air connections in and out of the country should be at the forefront to tap the potential regional and international market in the airline industry.
Air transport alongside road, railway and water transport must be simultaneously improved. Air connections reduce the risk of interruptions in roads and rail connections. It’s important to come up with a prudent operational strategy however to avoid operational mishaps that could be a stampede to this vision.
A powerful air link facilitates the export of light, higher value, perishable products such as fresh-cut flowers and fruit and vegetables.
It is also critical in supporting the development of tourism and service sectors, which rely on the ability to bring people in and out of Rwanda with ease.
However, an airline would not work in isolation. Rwanda needs a big-push development strategy, with an intertwined network of systematic development oriented activities that will simultaneously complement each other in socio-economic uplift.
A well functioning airline to Rwanda for instance requires enabling infrastructure like airports with first-class Rwandan expertise to operate such facilities. The prospective Bugesera international airport undoubtedly completes this effort.
The development of Bugesera international airport makes Rwanda’s dream of being a central African hub achievable.
Given the central location of Rwanda and its cross linked membership to regional bodies, the airport will facilitate growth of external sectors through more frequent and lower cost air freight and passenger services:
The High value agro exports requiring air freight, including existing exports of tea and coffee and non-traditional crops such as cut flowers and fine fruit would be easily exported through the new airport with appropriate connections to international destinations.
Further, service sectors essential to Rwanda’s long term development which rely on high quality air links, including Business and Conference Tourism will flourish. This makes Rwanda a service hub inline with the EDPRs and vision 2020
I wish to see tourists and other visitors flown in with Rwandair, amply accommodated in the Convention Centre with first class hotel and conference facilities, guided, welcomed and oriented by the RDB and other Rwandan tour guides, accessing good internet connectivity wherever they wish to go.
What will follow will be foreign exchange.
My appeal for now and always is that every Rwandan and development partners should honestly give due support to these initiatives to transform the land of a thousand hills into the land of a thousand opportunities.
Benon Talemwa is an economist in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning