Rwanda is “The Land of a Thousand Hills”. It is a tag we’ve inherited from the Belgians but it has entered our very identity and, as such, we have hotels, tour companies, shops, and a variety of products named after that mantra. It has served us well in the past but I’ve come to the realisation that it just might be time for a rethink.
RWANDA is a business just like any other and in a bid to attract investment we must ‘re-brand’; “Thousand hills” is merely a topographical description of our terrain but it doesn’t take into account our greatest asset -our people. I spent the last few days thinking of a new mantra for our nation while comparing what other nations describe themselves as.
Uganda was lucky to have the great Winston Churchill coin the term “Pearl of Africa” and it stuck whether it was true or not.
Kenya became the “Pride of Africa” a term borrowed from its airline, Malawi is “The warm heart of Africa” while South Africa called itself “the Rainbow Nation”; all these adages showcase certain values that unite the nation.
When one thinks of these descriptions one realises that they are more than mere platitudes or ethos; they inform, form and reflect who we are as a nation.
Branding in this modern world is paramount. A brand is a shorthand way of conveying core values, aspirations and history.
Rwanda has gone through tremendous trauma since independence which all culminated in the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, sadly for all our progress made we are still known largely for the horrific events of 1994.
Most of the re-branding has already been done and we know what our values and aspirations are: unity, patriotism and progress. All we need to do now is to sum it all up in a neat bundle.
I wonder how one could sum up Rwanda in just a few words; it is rather complicated and would need a lot of consultation. When I switch on the television and watch CNN and observe the various national adverts on the said TV channel, I see an opportunity for Rwanda to put itself in the world’s conscious.
Nations with less potential than Rwanda are flaunting themselves as havens of investment and opportunity. Tourism is turning into our main earner of foreign exchange with overseas visitors coming in record numbers and regional visitors also coming in large numbers.
Rwanda is a niche tourist destination with a wide portfolio of attractions ranging from Mountain Gorillas, cultural tours and even classic safaris; we need to reflect that in a new ethos.
There is a Kinyarwanda saying “Ukwanga akwita nabi” that is, “if someone hates you they give you a bad name”.
“The Land of a Thousand Hills” does not even come close to describing the wonder and splendour that is Rwanda. I call on all The New Times readers to think carefully about what, if anything, can replace the “thousand hills” name maybe we can even give out a prize for the best entry.
Let us break with the past and remove this vestige of colonialism as we redefine ourselves in this brave new era.