An Emerging Knowledge-Based Economy in Rwanda

A relatively newcomer in the meetings world, Rwanda is shaping up as one of East Africa’s premier business tourism destinations, thanks to the efforts made by the government and its partners to help strengthen and grow the sector. Betting on a knowledge-based economy, the country’s continuing growth can indeed be attributed to its good governance and sound fiscal discipline, as well as to the commitment from both its public and private sectors to build a more equitable country. Words Rémi Dévé

There is definitely something going on in Rwanda and its capital city Kigali. Over the past decade, the government and the private sector have invested massively in building the right infrastructure, skills, and institutional frameworks to provide an environment that is conducive to making a profound change in the country: from the establishment of higher institutions of learning, like the African Leadership University, University of Global Health equity or AIMS university, to the laying of fiber-optic cable nationwide, this landlocked territory is overcoming all obstacles and moving forward.

The idea has indeed been to transform into a knowledge-based nation. Unlike most African nations, Rwanda has limited natural resources. Far from being a limitation, this has presented an opportunity for the country to take an approach to development that differs from that of its neighbors—an approach where information and communication technologies (ICTs) form the foundations of its plans to fundamentally transform its economy. At the beginning of the century, Rwanda drew up a blueprint—dubbed Vision 2020—for how to achieve this goal. Adopted in 2000, it outlined several initiatives, programs, and strategies for transforming Rwanda into a middle-income country and transitioning its agrarian economy into an information-rich, knowledge-based and service-oriented one by 2020. Rwanda’s unique experience has also been driven by strong partnerships among the regulatory, policy, and implementing bodies.

The business events sector lies at the heart of this transformation. As Rwanda and Kigali host more and more international meetings —the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global African Investment Summit, the African Union Summit (AU), the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), and The World Academy of Sciences, just to name a few— the Convention Bureau, which was one of the first established in East Africa, has been instrumental in getting the destination on the map. As a result, out of 39 countries, Rwanda placed 5th in Africa in the 2016 ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) rankings, while Kigali placed 3rd among the continent’s top cities for meetings, conventions and events.

Ranked 1st as the safest country in Africa and 9th in the world by the World Economic Forum in 2017, Rwanda is indeed quickly becoming a destination of choice for international conferences, with infrastructure development including the Kigali Convention Centre and the growing presence of international hotel chains, collectively offering numerous meeting spaces.

The full version of this article will be published in the next issue of Boardroom, due out early February.

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