Rwanda is more than its past


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.


By Yoav Cerralbo

             J-L K.
Procurement Consultant
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
    East AFRICA
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