Friday, July 8 will go down in history for not only residents of Kigali, but Rwandans in general, as the day the facility that is now billed one of the capital’s greatest landmarks, the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), was inaugurated.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the complex, yesterday, President Paul Kagame acknowledged that although the project had encountered multiple failures, the Rwandan spirit of perseverance had led to success.
The building, the President said, is a “true testimony of the Rwandan spirit; we failed not once, not twice, may be three times, but on the fourth attempt we succeeded.”
“True to Rwandan spirit, we failed many times but we have succeeded many more times than we have failed. We keep learning from our failures and we finally succeed,” Kagame added.
The final success of the project, Kagame says, was prompted by many factors, including the opportunity to host the 27th African Union (AU) Summit, in Kigali.
Kagame thanked the AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was also in attendance, and the entire commission for trusting “Rwanda’s spirit” and choosing Rwanda to host the AU Summit.
Kagame attributed the completion of the Kigali Convention Centre to the pressure of the opportunity to host the AU Summit.
Constructed on 12.6-hectare piece of land in Kimihurura Sector, Gasabo District, the Kigali Convention Centre is one of the largest in the region with a capacity to host more than 5,000 participants.
Valued at over $300 million (about Rwf223 billion), the project is owned by a consortium of investors, including the Government that is represented by Prime Holdings, Rwanda Social Security Board, Crystal Ventures Limited and Rwanda Investment Group.
The holding company is Ultimate Developers Limited.
The facility will be operated by international hotel chain, Radisson Blu, under a brand name, Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre, Kigali.
The facilities include the main auditorium that can host up to 2,500 people, plus several other meeting rooms, as well as an office park.
It will also comprise the five-star Radisson Blu hotel with 292 rooms. These include 209 standard rooms, four accessible rooms, 68 business rooms, five junior suites, five diplomatic suites, and one elegant royal suite.
Speaking at the inauguration, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, explained that the Government is the majority shareholder in the project. He also noted that the completion of the project “marks a great milestone in the service industry in our country.”
The minister commended the Turkish firm that constructed the facility, which he said within just a year, “made the project that had almost turned into an impossible dream a reality.”
Construction works were completed by Summa, a Turkish engineering firm.
Boost to MICE
Rwanda aims to become a regional Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Events (MICE) destination, and the facility is seen as a timely boost to the already-thriving effort.
In 2015 alone, MICE revenue grew from $29.6 million (about Rwf23 billion) to $37.7 million (about Rwf29 billion)—and the opening of the centre is predicted to pull a number of major events into the country.
The convention centre provides space, atmosphere, technology, and catering facilities for events of all kinds and sizes –concerts, conventions –for health, finance, or economy, regional and international summits, sports events, 3D cinema, film festivals, exhibitions and trade fares, official receptions, or private events like weddings.
According to Denis J. Dernault, the general manager of Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre, Kigali, the facility employs over 400 people, 98 per cent of them Rwandans.
More than 40 per cent of the permanent staff are women, he said.
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN WITH CULTURAL ATTACHMENT
President Kagame also spoke out on what inspired the dome that is the main edifice of the facility, which he says draws inspiration from the life many Rwandans lived until not so many years ago.
The main events venue is set under a transparent dome that was inspired by traditional Rwandan hut construction, while Radisson Blu hotel has multi-coloured bands, which represent the ancient Rwandan baskets.
President Kagame praised the architectural design, describing it as a mixture of “Rwandan culture and modernity.”
“This facility; the conference centre and the hotel and are truly Rwanda,” he said, adding “if you saw the dome—many of us were born and housed in a small house like that dome. It has that cultural and emotional attachment.
“I am very happy that, today, we stand here to celebrate the immense work that has put up this. We can proudly look back at those challenging moments as we look forward to hosting the AU summit…. what remains is for us Rwandans and the friends of Rwanda to make good use of it.”
The AU summit, which is the inaugural function due to be held at the centre, is expected to start on Sunday, July 10 and later next week, several heads of state are expected in the country for the summit and other meetings organised on the sidelines.