Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rwanda Breaking the Mold?

Last November I made my first trip to Kigali, Rwanda attending an Appropriate Technology Conference. The tiny east African nation infamously known for a 1994 genocide, which saw the deaths of over 800,000 people, was barely recognizable as such. I left Rwanda with a keen interest in what some have considered a developmental "miracle" and especially its proclaimed leader, President Paul Kagame.

Consider this. Since the genocide, the Rwandan government has managed to bring relative peace to the former civil-war torn nation, passed progressive reforms to empower women and minorities, and also developed a plan to spur high-speed economic growth in the years to come. During our conference we visited among the largest solar panel grids in all of Africa--- just one of many alternative energy projects being supported by the government. Recently, the country's President Paul Kagame gave an excellent interview on CNN's GPS, where he discussed Rwanda's ongoing efforts at reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi and the nation's goal of becoming a self-reliant economy. The transcript of the interview was re-posted via

Rwanda, like other least developed countries faces a host of gigantic challenges. To be sure, Rwanda is a landlocked country and largely depends on international aid and international market prices of coffee and tea. And despite the progress that has been made on reconciliation between parties, there are local claims that President Kagame is using strong-arm tactics to keep the ethnic Tutsi population in the seat of power (this was brought up by Fareed Zakaria in the GPS interview).

However delicate the progress in Rwanda, there are some "green shoots" that I believe followers of African development should watch closely. In a continent riddled with ethnic conflict and political turmoil, Rwanda's destiny could hold a much larger significance for the future of the continent as a whole. You can see an earlier video below of President Kagame at "The State of Africa" round- table discussion at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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