Visit Rwanda, and Explore More Than It's Past
I’m a diehard Manchester United FC fan, but I’ve got to agree with something the Arsenal FC has decided to endorse for it’s 2018/19 kit: Visit Rwanda
This summer, thanks to a social impacts fellowship from Georgetown University, I had the amazing opportunity to work as a Business Development intern for Akazi Kanoze Access, an NGO focusing on providing vulnerable youth with employability skills, access to capital, and other support services to take advantage of economic opportunities.
While I learned a lot on the job, such as the bureaucratic difficulties NGOs face, the specifics of support youth entrepreneurship, and economic development under President Kagame’s #Vision2020, I perhaps learned even more away from the office.
Living in Kigali, the rapidly developing capital city, I saw firsthand the beauty, and struggles, of a growing economy. There are newly constructed high-rise buildings and a hallmark convention center, but I found them often more empty than bustling, perhaps following the model of “build it and they will come.” Meanwhile, the Rwandan government and public sector, including NGOs such as AKA, continue to search for ways to include the rural populations in this growth.
Traveling around Rwanda, with a short stint in Kenya, I experienced the stunning natural beauty of the region. Breathtaking waterfalls, adventure-inspiring safaris, gorgeous lakes and even volcanic mountains: East Africa really has it all.
(Being on a student budget, I didn’t have a chance to interact with the famous Rwandan gorillas, but if you have the opportunity, definitely take it!)
Rwanda has faced the burden of not only overcoming the obstacles of economic development, but doing so while recovering from a genocide whose horrors cannot be described in words. It has made vast strides in the past 24 years, finding ways to reconcile and unite while remembering the painful lessons of divisive rhetoric and action.
Unfortunately, its growth and progress are often masked on the world-stage by the tales of its past, and its too often overlooked as a country worth investment, tourism, and partnership. Although two state visits from the Chinese President and Indian PM within three days () are a significant step forward, these bilateral discussions can be most fruitful to the country and its people when they precede international business partnerships, not just aid.
So, I urge you all to #VisitRwanda, learn and explore, and come back knowing that this country and its people have so much more to offer than just the lessons from it’s past.
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