RWANDA has been on an impressive trajectory to build its image as a serious sporting Nation.
The Government of Rwanda through The Ministry of Sports and Culture has boosted participation in sports at all levels from school children and communities to public and private servants.
Uniquely, in Rwanda sports are understood as vehicles for uniting the country at all levels and promoting development.
This vision translated into grassroots actions has produced evident success on the courts, tracks and pitches of Rwanda. Notably, Rwanda in a short time has achieved impressive titles in Football, Basketball, Cycling and Volley Ball on the Continent.
The Ministry of Sport and Culture recognizes sports as one of the pillars of social transformation and development in society. The Nation has promoted sports in all corners of society unbiased to gender, age, or physical capacity in a style similar to the Country’s 2003 Constitution.
The Rwandan Government has adopted a national policy of dedicating Friday afternoons to sports in all public institutions. This national policy has also been widely adopted by the private sector.
The Country has also embarked on a goal to provide equitable access to sports for all. This is understood to make positive contributions towards public health, national identity, and social harmony.
Rwandans’ support for sports as a vehicle for social change is apparent. In 2009, the Rwandan Diaspora in addition to Rwandans in Rwanda took it up on themselves to invite Africa’s top footballers to the Country for a fundraising match to help youth orphaned by the Genocide.
The event was an all around success with 9 international players (Drogba, Samuel E’eto ,Yaya Toure, Korou Toure, Legoberd Song ,Andre Song etc)showing their skills before a full stadium raising FRW 71,787,883 for youth without homes to go during holidays.
In 2010, Rwanda’s Umurenge Kagame Cup tournament was initiated to promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.
At the tournament, 416 football teams from every sector in 30 districts compete for the Final that takes place at the Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.
Between 2003 and 2010 overall participation in all sports increased. In football alone, participation doubled. Volleyball marked even a more impressive growth from 237 participants to 1,916. Even more impressive is the rise of cycling from 128 participants in 2003 to 3,279 participants in 2010.
The diversity of sporting opportunities has also been on the increase with introduction of such sports as Rugby, Cricket and Rally which did not exist in the country before.
The empirical evidence of participation since the Country’s rise in promotion of sports is echoed in Rwanda’s performance in international competition.
In 2009 Beirut Francophone Rwanda was the 7th best performer of the 40 participating nations. In that competition, Rwanda walked away with three Gold Medals with women dominating with two medals; and one silver title.
In Volley Ball, Rwandan youth team ranks 4th on the African Continent and in the recently concluded Zone V tournament for qualifiers in all Africa games 2011 Rwanda senior Volleyball team proved to be the best in the region by winning all the matches and taking the title.
In Basket Ball, Rwanda ranks best in its Zone and 6th in Africa. The APR basketball club was 3rd in Africa in 2009 while the national team was 2nd during Africa basketball club championship that was held in Kigali.
Rwanda also qualified 3 times in Afrobasket since 2007, 2009, and 2011. Scholarships for 7 boys and 4 girls in USA since 2008.
There is also International Training Camps held every summer with youth of age 7 - 18. We have had Visits of NBA Basketball players like Baron Davis who plays for LA Clippers who came and had a clinic and inspired Rwandan youth about basket ball.
Human resources development like coaches, sports teachers and sports administrator have been trained. For the first time, the first female zone referee (Hermine) and two international referees have been accredited.
Coaching scholarship for 3 months in Louisiana - Switzerland and Germany and so far 8 coaches have benefited from this.
In sitting volleyball Rwanda was world cup champion in 2010 and 2nd in 2009. in Hand ball ,Rwanda in women category is the best in the region.
In Football, Rwanda’s Under-17 Team is currently 2nd best on the Continent and Just last January 2011, the Rwandan U-17 Football team while hosting the U-17 Cup of Nations made their Country and the Continent proud by being the first country to qualify for the U-17 FIFA World Cup due to take place in Mexico this summer.
The senior side has reached finals in CECAFA Challenge Cup in three consecutive years starting in 2007. Still in football, on the club side local teams have brought the CECAFA Kagame Cup home three times - 2007 (APR), 2009 (ATRACO) and 2010 (APR).
In promoting sports in Rwanda and the country abroad, hosting sports events in Rwanda has been used as means to upgrading sporting infrastructure.
The hosting of U-20 and U-17 African Cap of Nation was met with the construction of five artificial turfs in Kigali and in the Western Province.
Three stadiums in Kigali and Western Province were also upgraded for the occasion giving Rwandans multiple arenas meeting international standards, tennis courts have been upgraded and renovated at Amahoro, Nyarutarama, and Cercle (CSK), new gymnasium of NPC and creation of Kimisagara sporting complex.
In addition to promoting social welfare, Sports in Rwanda are being used to showcase the Country and promote its image as a viable sporting Nation.
The cycling Tour of Rwanda started in 2009 has been added to the International Cycling Union (UCI) Calendar attracting teams from all over Africa and Europe.
Two members of the Rwandan cycling teams have picked up MTN South Africa Sponsorships and will be representing the country at the 2012 London Olympics. In the recently concluded tour of Cameroun, Rwanda ranked 3rd.
In addition to promoting the country’s image abroad, the Rwandan athletes have raised their own standards of living and set an example for the country’s future - its Rwandan youth.