Atlanta city warms up for Rwanda Day 2014

Thousands of Rwandans and well-wishers are gearing up for Rwanda Day 2014, due next month in the US city of Atlanta, Georgia.    
A participant at the Rwanda Day 2013 in Toronto, Canada, proudly waves the National Flag. Atlanta city in the US will host the 2014 version. File.
A participant at the Rwanda Day 2013 in Toronto, Canada, proudly waves the National Flag. Atlanta city in the US will host the 2014 version. File.

Thousands of Rwandans and well-wishers are gearing up for Rwanda Day 2014, due next month in the US city of Atlanta, Georgia.

This is part of a series of events held in different cities in the world where members of the Rwandan Diaspora and those from the country meet to reminisce and celebrate the country’s achievements and also collectively discuss what role Rwandans abroad can play in nation building.

Featuring President Paul Kagame as the guest of honour, Rwanda Day 2014 is scheduled for September 19-20, officials at the Rwandan embassy in Washington DC say.

Yvette Nyombayire Rugasaguhunga, the second chancellor at the embassy, said Rwandans in the US and their friends invited President Kagame to speak to them about their contribution in building their homeland.

“At the (recent) US-Africa Summit, President Kagame reiterated the need for Africans to write their own history,” Rugasaguhunga told The New Times yesterday.

“Rwandans in the US invited the President to lead us in the discussion about our individual and collective responsibilities in building the Africa we want, taking our national Agaciro to a global level.”

At the event, experts, top artistes and business owners from Rwanda, US and Canada will be around to entertain and educate Rwandans and friends about issues that affect the country.

Dr Egide Karuranga, the president of the Rwandan Diaspora in Canada, describes Rwanda Day as an opportunity to both reconnect with motherland and promote businesses.

“It is so important and so emotional that people travel thousands of miles to meet the President and his delegation which often includes our friends and relatives,” he said.

“From a business perspective, it has been the best platform to promote both our exports and imports, with a strong focus on incoming foreign direct investment.”

Local businesses have been using the Day to showcase their products and expand their market base, such as in the case of Entreprise Urwibutso, whose passion fruit juice (Agashya) and hot pepper (Akabanga) are already sold in markets in the West.

“We are ready for Atlanta. The event will help us to reach more clients,” said Alexis Nkundayezu, the chief executive of Entreprise Urwibutso.

Government projected remittances at $130m in 2014. 

Janet Nkubana, the managing director of Gahaya Links, a Rwandan handicrafts and fashion company, agrees that Rwanda Day is good for promoting the country’s culture and business.

“There is a lot we gain from Rwanda Day. Sometimes we get feedback on our products and it helps us improve. It can also help us produce more products depending on ideas we get from participants at the event,” said Nkubana, whose company is behind Agaseke, the peace basket that is popular in North America.

Prioritise exports

Dr Karuranga, who is also a university professor of economics and business, said Rwanda could focus more on promoting her exports in the forthcoming Rwanda Day events.

“With our Diaspora entrepreneurs as partners, the event could be an interesting avenue to explore. Most of the products from emerging markets made it to the developed world markets through Diaspora entrepreneurs operating in enclave markets. Once the products are known in the enclave markets, they can easily move to the dominant market,” he said.

The economist advised government to put in place strategies to lift the country’s Diaspora entrepreneurs from the enclave to the dominant markets in countries where they live.

Past Rwanda Day events were held in Boston, Chicago, Paris, Brussels, London, and Toronto.

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