By Jaco Maritz
This might come as a surprise for those that haven’t visited Kigali, probably because many still associate the tiny East African country with images of its tragic 1994 genocide. Rwanda has, however, made great strides since those dark days nearly two decades ago. The reason why Kigali is so clean is because the last Saturday of each month is a compulsory ‘cleaning day’, when all business comes to a halt.
According to Julie Mutoni, country manager of DHL Express in Rwanda, this cleaning fosters unity among Rwandans. “Everyone, including the President, partakes in cleaning the city, and this cleaning day has helped Rwanda recover from genocide and civil war in multiple ways by creating a sense of purpose and togetherness amongst the people.”
In 2011, Charles Robertson from Renaissance Capital wrote that a visit to Rwanda was the greatest positive shock of his professional career. He stated that Rwanda is implementing many of the same economic reforms that Singapore introduced since the 1960s to transform itself into one of the world’s foremost financial centres.
Rwanda has done a lot to improve its business environment. According to data from the World Bank and IFC, it takes about three days to start a business in Rwanda, compared to an average of 34 days in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Foreign investors have also taken notice of these reforms. Earlier this month South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Group announced that it will open a hotel in Kigali. A new five-star Marriott Hotel is also set to open later this year. In addition, Reuters recently reported that Rwanda has signed a deal with South Korea’s largest telecoms provider KT Corp to roll out high-speed 4G internet to most of its citizens within three years.
“There is a lot of potential in Rwanda. The number of investors that have recently entered the market make people feel that their money is safe in the country,” said Mutoni. According to Mutoni, Rwanda’s economy is largely driven by the services industry as well as tourism. Agricultural products such as coffee and tea are also being exported.