Rwanda is a land of great diversity and beauty. Popularly known as ‘the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda has six volcanoes, twenty-three lakes, and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the great River Nile.
The landscapes in this green country are truly breathtaking. Many a visitor to Rwanda has remarked that the physical beauty of the country is without equal on the African continent. Spectacular volcanoes and dense tropical forests dominate the north of the country, while gentle hills and valleys, calm lakes, and turbulent rivers in both savannah and dense tropical vegetation dominate the rest of the country.
Rwanda boasts a wide variety of wildlife. The Parc National des Volcans, in northern Rwanda, is home to the world’s largest number of endangered mountain gorillas. Numbering in the hundreds, the gorillas live in a protected area, free from poachers. The gorillas can be viewed in their natural mountain habitats at a fairly close range.
Best known for its wealth of primates, Rwanda also has one of Africa’s richest bird life. A staggering 670 different bird species have been recorded in Rwanda. For botanists, the gorgeous wildflowers of the forests and mountains are capped by more than 100 orchid species in Nyungwe alone.
The Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda is teeming with wildlife both large and small. They range from Lions, Giraffe, elephants, and Hippopotamus to Hyena, Impala, and Gazelle. There is a rich variety of birdlife at Akagera as well.
Rwanda also has water bodies that are ideal for water sports and fishing, particularly Lake Kivu in the west of the country and Lake Muhazi in the east. Lake Kivu also offers beautiful beaches, jutting peninsulas, and an archipelago of beautiful islands.
Rwanda, in a nutshell, is a nature lover’s paradise. It is also one of the friendliest of countries. A warm welcome is complemented by comfortable facilities, fine food, and rich cultural heritage.
Rwanda today is a nation renascent, a country in an advanced stage of rehabilitation, and one looking to a brighter future. The high level of political stability and peace since 1995 has encouraged the repatriation of millions of refugees, while the main instigators of the genocide are being tried at the Arusha Tribunal in Tanzania and in the Gacaca courts in Rwanda. The victims of the genocide have been laid to rest in mass graves whose frank austerity affirms the government’s ability to openly confront the recent past without extracting undue political mileage from its role in ending the genocide.
During its tenure in power, the RPF has placed a strong emphasis on reconciliation and has largely succeeded in forging a sense of national, rather than ethnic, identity in Rwanda. The autocratic and divisive political structures that formerly denied minorities a meaningful political voice have been replaced, for instance with the implementation of cellular councils that involve local communities in important decisions at the grassroots level. Furthermore, although poverty remains endemic to Rwanda as it does to most other Africa countries, economic liberalization and civil stability have stimulated a consistently high annual economic growth rate since 1995, and today there is a tangible economic buzz about Rwanda that bodes well for its long term future. Tourism will play a pivotal role in fostering the economic infrastructure and prosperity that nurture future political stability.
Rwanda’s economy still may be small and predominantly agricultural, but in recent years, with political stability, it has posted an impressive 9.9% GDP growth rate at the same time reducing inflation to 3.2% and currency depreciation to only 6.5% per annum. Foreign exchange controls have been liberalized and the banking system is sound and thriving.
With its Vision 2020 objective of combating poverty, Rwanda is embarking on a comprehensive program of privatization and liberalization with a goal to attaining rapid and sustainable economic growth. The goal is to transform the economy from its 90% dependence on subsistence agriculture into a modern, broadly based economic engine, welcoming investors, creating employment and new opportunities.
The major exports of Rwanda are coffee, tea, tin cassiterite, wolframite, and pyrethrum. Coffee makes up more than 50% of the total export value, while mountain-grown tea is considered to be some of the finest in the world.
Recently, substantial private investments have been made in tourism and developing new industries such as cut flowers for export and fish farming. The full range of Rwanda’s resources has yet to be realized. Commercial fishing in Lake Kivu is in its infancy; there are vast opportunities in the emerging tourism industry. The labor force is dedicated, energetic, and eager for training. The government, through the Rwanda Investment Promotion Agency (RIPA), is ready to work hand-in-hand with investors to realize their goals and drive the economy forward to a better future. Opportunities abound for long-term, well-capitalized investors with ideas, imagination, and business skills for an emerging economy.