Published on : Thursday, May 12, 2016
The three-day World Economic Forum 2016 in Rwanda attracted global business leaders, philanthropists and heads of state along with 1,500 delegates. This will be their first time visiting the country that aspires to be “the Switzerland of Africa.”
Francis Gatare, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, said Rwanda wanted to build relationships with the visiting business leaders and decision makers and make the most of their presence.
More than two decades after genocide claimed the lives of 800,000 Rwandans, the country is looking more like the closest thing Africa has to Switzerland. The economy of this tiny, landlocked, mountainous country has outperformed almost all its continental peers, with annual growth averaging 7.8 percent since 2000.
The theme for the forum is “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.”
Some of the people on the World Economic Forum agenda or panels in Kigali include U.S billionaire-philanthropist Howard Buffett, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote; Ashish Thakkar, co-founder of Atlas Mara; philanthropist and investor Tony Elumelu, humanitarian Graça Machel; former and current African Development Bank presidents Donald Kaberuka and Adesina Akinwumi; and Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Group.
Other leading global figures include Winnie Byanyima, director of Oxfam International; and Carlos Lopes, head of U.N. Economic Commission for Africa.
Rwanda’s growth in tech and tourism
Here are a few ways Rwanda is punching above it’s weight in tech, tourism and other areas, earning it a reputation as “Africa’s doer:
Rwanda is the only country whose mountain gorilla population is growing.
Rwanda is the first country in Africa to introduce the human papilloma virus vaccine.
Rwanda is the first country in the world to ban plastic bags.
Rwanda is a champion of women, the first country in the world to have more than 50 percent female members of parliament
Rwanda was chosen for world’s first drone port.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, long a champion of technology, has made headlines recently for favoring a third presidential term — not something associated with a democracy. But under his watch, the country has built its tourism industry into it biggest foreign-exchange earner.
Events such as the World Economic Forum and the African Development Bank’s 2014 annual meeting have helped attract visitors to see endangered mountain gorillas and climb volcanoes. Rwanda also boosted agricultural output and manufacturing by improving roads and electricity supply, according to Bloomberg:
“Rwanda’s experiences feature high on the agenda of the WEF gathering, which will focus on how African countries can harness technology and knowledge to spur growth.”
Technological innovation will be central to this year’s World Economic Forum with discussions focusing on how technology can help African countries diversify their economies beyond relying on natural resources, World Economic Forum Director Oliver Cann said.