Why more World citizens should come to Rwanda

By Clare Akamanzi
On 25 March 2021 at 01:12

For the people of Kayonza district, home to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, the last decade has transformed their fortunes. Visitors from around the world are visiting the park for the rare chance to see the ‘Big Five’ (Lions, Rhinos, Leopards, Elephants and Buffalo) in their natural habitat.

The same is true of villages in Musanze in the north west of the country, where the Volcanoes National Park is home to Rwanda’s world-famous mountain gorillas. For the children playing football on their school pitches at the foothills of the volcanoes, some wearing Arsenal shirts with ‘Visit Rwanda’ emblazoned on the sleeve, their future in an increasingly prosperous region is bright.

The natural beauty of our ‘land of a thousand hills’ is rapidly becoming an ever more important part of Rwanda’s economic growth, and strategy of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The rapid technological advances the world has seen in recent decades have given countries such as ours, which struggled to compete in a commodity-centred global economy, a fresh opportunity to create a new kind of prosperity.

The prevailing security and stability, along with the rise of travel and tourism, has transformed Rwanda. Our capital Kigali is easily reachable from around the world, including through direct flights from Europe. And thanks to the Internet, we now have a platform to promote our unique destinations across geographies and generations.

Rwanda’s burgeoning tourism industry is a hugely valuable driver of development. In 2019, the sector generated 10.3% of our GDP, and provided employment for 160,000 of our people.

The World Economic Forum has ranked Rwanda the safest country in Africa and 9th safest in the world.

As the UK and other countries look to permit holiday travel once again, Rwanda stands ready to welcome visitors following our strong response to the pandemic and ongoing nationwide vaccination campaign. Health protocols are in place to ensure tourism is both safe and seamless.

As the UK and other countries look to permit holiday travel once again, Rwanda stands ready to welcome visitors following our strong response to the pandemic and ongoing nationwide vaccination campaign. Health protocols are in place to ensure tourism is both safe and seamless.

This is why our partnerships with football clubs like Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain are such important investments: they provide us with an invaluable opportunity to show off the wonders of our country, challenging entrenched biases and portraying the reality of Rwanda to the world, a country of hope, astounding beauty, and endless opportunity.

Those who seek to criticise international aid sometimes frame these types of investments within their pre-conceived narrative that African governments are wasteful. This completely misses the point.

When done right, aid empowers recipient countries to make productive investments which pay dividends across our communities. Rwanda and other countries like ours aspire to release our economies from reliance on international assistance, and we spend our money with this in mind. Investing in tourism is one of the most sure-fire ways to attract capital inflows, and expand our economy in a sustainable fashion, focusing on the benefits for our people.

If our policies are judged by these standards, it is clear that they have been a resounding success. The Arsenal shirt, with the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on the sleeve, is seen tens of millions of times a day globally and targeted marketing campaigns with the two clubs, from visits by players to promoting the country’s exquisite coffee and culture, regularly reach millions more.

For example, more than 1,000 media articles were published on the launch of our partnership with Arsenal. David Luiz’s visit to Rwanda also generated more than 100 pieces of media, showcasing the country’s history, culture and tourism attractions to approximately 3.5 million people. Social media coverage of his experience seeing the majestic mountain gorillas and meeting young Rwandan football stars reached an additional 4.1 million people. These activities have enhanced our brand and the commercial media value far exceeds the initial investment Rwanda made in the partnerships.

The impact on tourism is also evident. One year after our deal with Arsenal was signed, tourism revenue increased by 17%. Its success in the United Kingdom and across Europe has been especially clear: tourists from Europe increased by 22% in the year following the partnership launch. These outstanding results support the growth of our economy, creating more revenue to reinvest across all key sectors, lifting thousands out of poverty, and empowering citizens.

Over the last quarter of a century, Rwanda has sought to overcome tragedy by regaining the sense of national pride that had long united our people.

Communities in Kayonza, Musanze, Kigali, and many other regions across the country see a dynamic new industry in the tourism economy, and this is just the beginning. By welcoming visitors from around the world, we hope to not only share our history and experience with the international community, but to continue further along our chosen path towards self-reliance and prosperity for all Rwandans. Rwanda is happy and proud to be open to the world, and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors.

Clare Akamanzi is the CEO, Rwanda Development Board

This article was first published in The Independent on 24th March 2021.

Arsenal Star, Davis Luiz met with the CEO of Rwanda Development Board on his visit to Rwanda.

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