Hallo from Kigali! So why was Rwanda chosen to be host of this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa?
“The land of a thousand hills,” including those surrounding its capital city of Kigali, Rwanda is home to a population of 12 million. The people still work largely in agriculture and are spread across an area one-third the size of Ireland.
Following the civil unrest and genocide of 1994, the country has transformed itself to become something of a model for Africa in terms of good governance, personal safety and security, low levels of corruption and crime, improved healthcare and an efficient bureaucracy. There is also a strongly business-friendly government. As one example, companies can be set up online.
Other business-friendly moves have included replacing French with English as the official language for education, business and government affairs. This is aimed at attracting more foreign investors, adopting the common language of neighboring countries, and furthering trade and exchange with them.
Combine this with a green landscape, clean streets and organized cities, towns and villages, and Rwanda has gained a reputation of being the Switzerland or Singapore of Africa. This is the attraction that brought “Davos” to Kigali.
A number of unique social measures have also contributed to the country’s position as a model for Africa. In 2006, Rwanda became the first country in the world to ban plastic bags. Anyone who has travelled elsewhere in Africa knows that plastic is the bane of the landscape, and this measure has removed the problem. And the entire country spends one Saturday each month cleaning streets and public places, giving an order and cleanliness to the country that is unique in Africa. Maybe something Western nations could learn from?
Finally, to recover from the genocide, which overwhelmingly targeted males, Rwanda has promoted and protected women, encouraging them to develop equally in education. Women make up 64 percent of the country’s Parliament, earning it the nickname, “The House of Ladies.”
So those are some of the reasons that “Davos” came to Kigali. JLL has five colleagues here to meet intensively with current and prospective clients, and we will post a few updates in the coming days.