One of the things Hannam-dong is famous for is
its plethora of embassies.
From big to small countries, the area is filled with
missions busy promoting their country.
Now there is a new embassy in the neighborhood looking
to make a splash in Korea.
The Rwanda Embassy opened its doors in October of last year
as a diplomatic office.
Five months later they upgraded the office to full embassy status.
Now comes the tough task of attracting investors and
convincing them that Rwanda is not the same country
it was in 1994 when genocide devastated the small nation.
The embassy's other function is to learn from Korea's advances.
It is no secret that only two generations ago,
Korea was one of the poorest countries.
Today, Korea is the 13th largest economy and growing.
Rwanda on the other hand picked itself out of
the ashes of the devastation to become a model of development.
"We can really learn a lot from Korea," said Eugene Kayihura,
head of mission to The Korea Herald in
his first interview with the local press.
"That's one of the reasons I came here; to see how
Korea advanced in such a short period of time so that
we can copy from them and maybe they can
copy from us a few things too," he added.
Rwanda shocked the world when it topped the world
rankings of women in national parliament with over
50 percent representation compared with
the world average of 15 percent.
As the country undergoes a period of reconstruction,
women are taking an active role.
They not only head about a third of all households,
but have also taken up many jobs that were formerly
held by men, as in construction and mechanics.
"People also realized that living one's life is more important
than being divided," said Kayihura talking about
the 100-day Rwandan genocide that killed about million people.
"There are no gains by saying they are from one group
or the other (Hutu or Tutsi).
They just want to work and provide for their families."
Since then, Rwanda had to rebuild a nation
that was obliterated due to hatred.
Doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, teachers
and so on had to be trained to fill the vacuum
left by the genocide.
"How long does it take you to train a doctor or a lawyer?
" asked Kayihura. "So when we took over the country
we had to start from zero.
After 15 years it is a miracle how we came back.
So it shows you that the future is very bright."
One of the ways Rwanda came back was doing
what Korea did,
by investing and capitalizing on its human resource capacity.
"We have about 40 students coming to Kyung Hee University
to do their masters mostly in engineering, IT and sciences.
That's the future.
We can learn a lot from Korea especially in the IT industry."
Kayihura hopes that Rwanda will one day be
the hub for ICT in Africa.
As investments goes, Kayihura explained
that it's been a hard sell.
The first thing an investor thinks about when hearing
the word Rwanda is its brutal history.
Kayihura explained that it is a constant challenge
to promote a country that went through
such a horrible history "but its part of the job."
His work paid off recently when KT signed
a $40 million contact with the Rwandan government
to build up its broadband infrastructure.
Another positive sign that things are going well
is the purchase of agricultural equipment
from local companies which will replace the aging machines
used in Rwandan farms today.
"We have a lot of construction work to be done,
" he said. "Korean companies can take part
in that; just like Korea is rebuilding itself so is Rwanda."
Kayihura hopes that one day Rwanda will become
the hub for Korean companies looking to operate
in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa.
"We have many trade agreements with the surrounding
countries like the Common Market for Eastern
and Southern Africa and the East African Community
which is Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania.
So Rwanda can be the hub for the entire area," he said.
Kayihura is also working on getting
the Rwanda Chamber of Commerce up and running.
Next month, a trade delegation from Rwanda
will visit Korea to showcase their products.
One product that has helped
Rwanda's sustainable development is its tourism sector.
"We have high-end tourism like visiting the mountain gorillas,
" he said. "Rwanda is the only place left.
There are very few and it's very expensive to visit them
and we are getting a lot of tourists especially
from America and Europe."
A ticket to visit these gentle giants can cost
an easy $600 per person.
"And now with online bookings we are getting
a lot of reservations.
They have to book 6-8 months in advance.
It's bringing a big boost to our economy."
Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors
in Rwanda today and is now their
leading foreign exchange earner generating
$214 million in 2008,
up by 54 percent on the previous year.
Despite the genocide, the country is increasingly
perceived internationally as a safe destination,
and one million people are estimated to
have visited the country in 2008,
up from 826,374 in 2007.
The country's most popular tourist activity is
the tracking of mountain gorillas,
which takes place in the Volcanoes National Park.
Other attractions include Nyungwe Forest,
home to chimpanzees and other primates,
the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera,
a small savanna reserve in the east of the country.
A couple of months ago, people from all over the world
participated in the annual
Kwita Izina - The Baby Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony.
"We can never erase our history, we went through it,
it was very difficult for us, genocide is not easy,
we lost over a million people, but as a country
we are really picking up and we have a lot
to show after 15 years," he said with pride.
Gsm: (250) (0) 78-847-0205 (Mtn Rwanda)
Gsm: (250) (0) 75-079-9819 (Rwandatel)
Home: (250) (0) 25-510-4140
P.O. Box 3867
Kigali - RWANDA
Skype ID: kayisa66