20 Years Later, Rwanda Emerges From the Shadows
What African country lacking oil or diamonds experienced economic growth of 8 percent since 2010? Reduced the percentage of people living below the poverty line in the last ten years by 14 percent? Buried 1,000 miles of fiber optic cables to jump-start a 4G network to cover most of the country? Was ranked 32 out of 189 worldwide as a place that makes it easy to conduct business? Implemented a nationwide public health plan to reduce the number of HIV infections? Has a majority of women in its parliament?
The answer: Rwanda, a small land-locked country of 12 million people in East Africa whose economy is primarily dependent on agriculture and foreign aid. If trends continue, Rwanda’s leaders expect the nation to become a middle income country and a technology hub for some 135 million people in the region, according to the New York Times.
And yet, just twenty years ago this month, Rwanda was the site of one of the worst atrocities in the modern era. In 100 days, almost one million people were killed. The scars of genocide remain, literally on the bodies of young adults who survived attacks as small children, and memorialized in places like the Kigali Genocide Museum. But extraordinary progress has been made through the hard work of the Rwandan people and others around the world
Aid for Africa has supported organizations working in Rwanda since our inception. For almost a decade, Generation Rwanda has been helping children who survived the genocide build a future through education. Generation Rwanda finds talented and needy Rwandan high school graduates and supports them through college. The goal: to create the business and political leaders who will sustain Rwanda’s economic and social progress.
Aid for Africa member Akilah Institute for Women was founded in 2010 and focuses on education. The Institute teaches the skills Rwandan women need to take the jobs in the growing tourism and business communities in Rwanda. Two-year business degrees include courses Akilah develops by working closely with local businesses, ensuring job placement for its graduates.
Other Aid for Africa members are working to help improve subsistence farming and provide clean water to rural areas. The international research center ICIPE undertakes research on tropical insects with Rwandan scientists who share with farmers the best ways to improve food production with minimal use of chemicals. Aid for Africa member charity: water works in rural Rwanda to help communities gain access to clean water.
Rwanda still has far to go to reach its goal of becoming a middle-income country, and critics have identified the absence of a more open political progress as an obstacle. But there is no doubt that the transformation Rwanda has made would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. That’s worth keeping in mind when naysayers claim that Africa’s problems are too difficult to solve.
Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa‘s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.
Photo credit: Aid for Africa