CHOGM is here, are you there?

By Herbert Lugaba
On 27 January 2020 at 02:56

The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government [CHOGM] is only a few months away, to be hosted here in Kigali, 22-27th June, where, other than the government heads, we expect over 10,000 guests in the country. We are talking of that number of guests that will be here for almost a week, consuming services made in Rwanda and provided by Rwandans; food and drinks, transport, accommodation, telecom services, entertainment, among a plethora of commodities.

Some guests will, of course, take a stride outside Kigali, including visits to museums, panoramic sites, and Rwanda’s forte, our unique crafts.

The country is getting ready. The Government, through Ministry of Infrastructure [MININFRA], has upped the game, allocating over Rwf10 billion for upgrading a number of peripheral roads so that when the traffic flow at the center of CHOGM activities is diverted, alternative routes can easily be put to use to ease the jam and avoid the unnecessary delays of nationals and guests.

The new Mulindi Road, Kabeza-Alpha Palace Road, Rwandex Network Road, Nyabisindu-Nyarutarama Road and Migina Network Road connecting Gasabo district headquarters to Sports View Hotel, are such will serve a great deal in decongesting traffic.

Kigali International Airport is also undergoing several modifications to increase parking space for aircraft and passenger lounge at the terminal.

As the government is doing all this, members of the public should as well get involved in the pre-preparations. Are we having cooperatives of farmers that will be supplying food-stuffs to the hotels and restaurants in Kigali during the time? Or we shall let that opportunity slip out of their hands and we instead let the international hotels import stuffs?

Are we having our entertainers-traditional and hip-hops included in the party?

Are we polishing the skills and best practices of our hospitality and protocol staff so that as they interact with the over 10,000 guests they leave an impression of impeccable professionalism and turn those guests into tourism ambassadors of Rwanda? We need to.

Creating ambassadorship through eloquent services is quite inevitable as the guests will come from 53 countries with a combined population of about 2.4 billion, many of who are potential tourists. Using the opportunity to position Rwanda as a competitive MICE power must be mustered so that we get the world thinking more of Rwanda, attracting more and keeping the flag high.

And in all this, where are the youth in the CHOGM equation? Where are the school and university debates on topical issues as will be discussed in the main event by the Heads of Government—fundamental political values; gender equality and inclusion; peace promotion, among others? Are we leaving the youth out or just on the margins of this significant and historical meeting?

This is a very salient question because during the 2018 CHOGM: “Heads agreed to mainstream youth priorities into national development policies and plans, and to promote the participation of young people at all levels of decision making.”

It is therefore not preposterous to say that at least the youth in the academic world, in business and governance should have, by now, been drawn into a number of pre-preparatory activities, and be seen to be active and passionate.

We are hosting a historical event. The government is ready and doing all that is necessary for a successful CHOGM, but it is better we get a majority of Rwandans in the loop? And it is important we plan for the benefits to be reaped from CHOGM to permeate to the ordinary person, both in the short and the long run.

Here in Rwanda, especially, known for supporting youth-led mechanisms that enable meaningful participation of young people in building social cohesion processes in communities, we should give youth a high-table position in the CHOGM arrangements.