Rwanda’s Top 12 Accomplishments

Kigali City. Photo: dmitri_66, Creative Commons

Rwanda is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and dignitaries from across the continent and the world have now arrived in Kigali to discuss the skills gap, energy, technology, and inequality.

Many visitors may not fully appreciate the incredible success story that Rwanda represents. I first moved to Kigali in 2006. Since then I’ve witnessed a complete transformation, not just of the physical infrastructure, but an emotional and psychological evolution into one of the continent’s brightest hotspots for innovation, technology, and women’s equality.

Rwanda’s top 12 accomplishments:

  1. Women in Politics
Umushyikirano 2013, Rwanda Parliament, Creative Commons

Women hold 64% of the seats in Rwanda’s Parliament. This is more than any other country in the World. Some of Rwanda’s most prominent cabinet members are women, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Health.

2. Safe Childbirth
Rwanda has reduced its maternal mortality rate faster than any other developing country. Since 2000, the rate of women losing their lives during childbirth has dropped by nearly 80%, and nine out of ten births now take place with the attendance of skilled health staff.

3. First Women’s University

Kigali is the home of the Akilah Institute for Women, the first women’s university in the region. 88% of Akilah graduates launch their careers within 6 months of graduation, and earn 12x the national median income. Akilah offers accredited diplomas in Entrepreneurship, Information Systems, and Hospitality Management

4. No Plastic Allowed
Since 2008, Rwanda has had a national ban on plastic bags, making it one of the first countries in the world to say no thanks to plastic. This has played a significant role in shaping Kigali’s image as Africa’s cleanest city. Instead of plastic, the country focuses on paper and cotton bags as well as biodegradable packaging.

5. Regional IT Hub

The Government of Rwanda has high ambitions for Rwanda to become a hub for IT and tech-industries in East Africa. Through a nationwide fibre optic internet roll-out, Rwanda aims to secure connectivity to all corners of the country and is introducing e-governance, e-health, smart agriculture and an increased focus on ICT innovation and entrepreneurship.

6. Free Education

Primary School students. Photo: Global Partnership for Education, GPE, Creative Commons

All children in Rwanda are entitled to 12 years of free education, taking them all the way through primary and secondary levels. Today, there is close to a 100% countrywide enrollment in primary schools.

7. A Healthy Nation
More than 90% of Rwanda’s population is enrolled in the national health program, providing them access to health care on local and national levels. As a result, rates of deathly diseases such as Malaria and HIV/Aids have dropped significantly. From 2005–2011, Rwanda’s malaria prevalence dropped 85%.

8. One Cow per family

Phoibe Mvrorundebe (54) from Gatyazo village, close to Butare in southern Rwanda, used a loan from Trócaire’s microfinance partner to improve her crops and purchase livestock. Photo: Elena Hermosa/Trocaire. Creative Commons

In 2006, President Kagame introduced the One Cow per Poor Family program to fight child malnutrition and provide a source of income for poor households. The community decides which families receive a cow, and the first female born calf is passed on to another poor family, and so on. To date, more than 200,000 families have benefited from the program and the aim is to give out 350,000 cows by 2017.

9. Strong Economic Growth

Rwanda’s economy is experiencing impressive and steady growth rates, securing more jobs and higher welfare to the country’s nearly 12 million people. Between 2008–2012, Rwanda’s annual GDP growth was 8% on average, pulling more than 1 million people out of poverty.

10. Vision for a Nation

Vision for a Nation

Vision for a Nation is a nationwide initiative to provide every woman, child and man in Rwanda with local access to eye care and affordable glasses. The organization has conducted over 500,000 eye sight screenings, provided over 65,000 pairs of glasses, and trained over 1,850 nurses. On average, recipients of glasses will benefit from a 10% economic productivity gain which equates to US$64 of additional income per year for the average Rwandan. By 2017, Vision for a Nation will provide eye care to every one of the country’s 15,000 villages.

11. One Laptop per Child

President Paul Kagame and Minister of Youth & ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana watch students explore the One Laptop per Child computers. Photo by Rwanda’s Government, Creative Commons

Rwanda was among the first African countries to adopt the One Laptop per Child Program, aiming to secure quality education to children in poor communities through ICT. Since then, more than 100,000 Rwandan children have received a laptop and ICT is integrated into the national school curriculum.

12. Growing Gorilla Population

Nearly half of the world’s 900 mountain gorillas live in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda continues to be at the forefront of gorilla conservation and is the only country in the world whose gorilla population is growing.