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Invest in Rwanda, A Country With Unconventional Vision And Leadership

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Advertorial by Rwanda Development Board

Since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Rwanda has risen from $752million to $9.5 billion in 2018, and the GDP per capita has grown from $125.5 to $787 during the same period. Due to Rwanda’s internationally recognized universal access to healthcare policy called ‘Mutelle de Sante’ life expectancy has risen from 29 years in 1994 to 67 years in 2016. Inflation has fallen from 101% in 1995 to 1.1% in 2018 and Rwanda has jumped over 100 places in the World Bank Doing Business Index, today ranking 38th globally and 2nd in Africa.

 Furthermore, with the 9 Year Basic Education policy, Rwanda has seen the average expected years of schooling rise from 6.2 years in 1995 to 11.2 years in 2017. These numbers, both the increases and decreases, are not merely statistics on paper, they reveal a people who have taken the reins of destiny into their own hands. Following the defeat of the genocidal forces by the Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels led by now president, Paul Kagame, many highly qualified development experts believed that the fabric of Rwandan society was irrevocably torn asunder. Over one million people had been killed in less than 100 days, over 3 million had fled the country to refugee camps in Tanzania, Burundi and the DRC (then Zaire), the national treasury was looted and there weren’t even pens and paper in government departments.

 Speaking to members of the Australian chapter of the YPO (Young Presidents Organization) in May last year President Kagame was asked this question, “experts say that a turnaround from a cataclysmic event such as genocide is supposed to take a century or at least a generation, how was Rwanda able to do so in only twenty years”? President Kagame mentioned the main aspects of the Rwandan turnaround; thinking big, having a vision, refusing to get stuck in the status quo, believing in, and having faith in the vision and, lastly, making sure that the journey is inclusive by bringing people in and creating possibilities for them to make their contribution.

 Rwanda does not have the usual ingredients for economic transformation. It does not have a wealth of natural resources such as oil or diamonds, it is landlocked, it has one of the highest population densities in the world. However, Rwanda has a will to build a better, more prosperous nation.

 What Rwanda did was put together a development plan called ‘Vision 2020’. This plan envisioned a Rwanda that was middle-income and knowledge-based. With a GDP growth rate which was dominated by double digits over the last 10 years, we are reaping the fruits of the ambitious plan.

 One of the fruits is the emerging MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) sector. Who could have imagined that 25 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda would become home to one of the most iconic and most expensive buildings in Africa, the KCC (Kigali Convention Center)? The KCC, a venue that includes a five-star hotel and conference facilities that can host over 5,000 delegates, will this year host, among other world class events, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). To date, KCC has hosted the African Union Heads of State summit, the Transform Africa summit as well as a myriad of regional and international events and conferences.

 The KCC has not been the only such ‘out of the box’ investment that the Government of Rwanda has made to create value where no one expected. A decade or so ago, the Government insisted on building the country’s very first five-star hotel, the present-day Kigali Serena hotel. Our development partners baulked at the investment, saying that there was no need for such a high-end facility. The Government, believing in its vision, went ahead and built the hotel thereby creating the anchor accommodation facility that opened Rwanda to the opportunity of becoming a regional destination for business travel and MICE. The country now has five 5-star hotels and more are opening up this year. Furthermore, high end accommodation establishments have opened their branches across different parts of Rwanda. To create the ecosystem that a vibrant MICE sector needed, the national carrier Rwandair was established, investments in skills and capacity building were made and the private sector was encouraged and supported to invest in the sector.

 Because the Government refused to take a laissez-faire attitude to the development of the MICE and the overall tourism sector, investments that we have registered in the sector as the Rwanda Development Board have totaled $1.5 billion since the year 2000. Hotel rooms have increased from 623 in 2003 to 14, 866 in 2018, tourism revenues have jumped from $131 million in 2006 to over $300 million with MICE tourism revenue numbers growing from inconsequential numbers in 2000 to $55 million in 2018. We expect that all the numbers will grow by at least 10% per year and projections show that the tourism sector will be worth $800 million by the end of 2024.

 This might seem ambitious, but we believe in our vision and we are actively working towards fulfilling it. That is why we partnered with different partners, including but not limited to Arsenal FC and Paris Saint Germain, English and French football teams respectively, to market Rwanda as a destination for tourism, MICE and investment. That is why Rwandair is increasing both its fleet as well as its destinations in Africa, North America, Europe and Asia and that is why we are currently building a new international airport in Bugesera, on the outskirts of Kigali, in partnership with Qatar. In addition, we have taken an active role in building an Africa that freely trades with itself through the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACTFA) and internally we have reformed both our business environment and visa regimes.

The business community has followed our lead. Last year, we registered over $2.4 billion in investments on the back of over 8% GDP growth. Leading global businesses such as Volkswagen, Motorola Solutions, Andela and Radisson today provide jobs to young Rwandans graduating from global institutions of learning that are based in Rwanda such as Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to the recent opening of the first smartphone factory by Mara Phones; companies including Volkswagen (in partnership with Siemens), Ampersand, and Safiride are also rolling out environment friendly transport solutions through electric vehicles and motorcycles on the street of Kigali and other parts of Rwanda.

 When we tell businesses that Rwanda is the right place to invest in, we are confident that they will find the right environment to thrive. Why? Because we built that environment.

Mr. Zephanie Niyonkuru is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, the Rwanda Development Board. The Rwanda Development Board is a one stop shop for investors, bringing business registration, investment promotion, tourism, ICT development, SMEs, human capacity development, privatization and specialist agencies under one institution.

Zephanie Niyonkuru

Brand Voice

Africa’s people-led approach to combat COVID-19 shows signs of progress and leadership

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Writes Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

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Brand Voice

Building Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom

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“Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.” Swahili Proverb

An enduring lesson learnt throughout our 175-year existence is that, while things rapidly change around us, the things that truly matter don’t! The desire to keep learning and growing is one such thing that remains a driving force behind everything we do at Old Mutual. Education is central to this.

Responding to the Challenges

Aligned to both Sustainable Development Goal’s 4 (Quality Education) and 17 (Partnerships) as well as our Responsible Business philosophy, we’re working to share, connect, learn and grow together with the communities we serve through Education.

We believe in the power of Education to solve key social issues such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. By continuing to invest in Education today, we know that we can build a more prosperous future for the generations of tomorrow.

Old Mutual has partnered with authorities, experts, and practitioners in the field on a number of ongoing initiatives including:  

  • Dynamic and interactive Financial Education and Inclusion programmes that have reached millions across the African continent. Utilising an array of channels and leveraging off technology, the programmes impart valuable and often life changing principles that empower customers and communities to build and sustain their lifetime financial goals.
  • Investing in Schools, Teachers and Leadership to drive immediate and long-term impact in the Education sector. Old Mutual’ s Education Flagship Project – a longer-term programme with a seven-year investment cycle – is in place to connect the dots between learners, teachers and school leadership through innovative training that has paid off in improved results in affiliated schools.
  • Skills Development interventions such as Bursaries, Internships, Learnerships and Graduate Development programmes that seek to create sustainable job opportunities and placements for learners.

Introducing Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom to Bring It All Together!

In perhaps our most ambitious move yet, Old Mutual has committed to building Africa’s Biggest Digital classroom so that we can extend the Education-based work already being done across the Group to so many more.

This Digital Classroom is being designed to respond to the challenges of widespread education exclusion, low Financial Literacy rates on the continent, vastly uneven teacher-to-learner ratios, as well as accessibility to physical and financial resources that continue to hamper the success of the delivery of Education on the continent today, and into the future. 

Enabling Learning Through Digital Engagement

But why a digital classroom?

Our aim as a business, is to be able to effectively respond to an increasingly connected Africa with user-friendly, value-adding solutions and experiences that bring as many people along on this educational journey as possible. Designed with a generation of digital first, tech-savvy users in mind, but mindful of the wealth of knowledge coming through from past generations, Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom will enhance the capabilities of past and present, to shape a brighter future for all well into the future.

While we’re investing in digital capabilities to enhance education across the continent, we know that the future of Africa is still its people! And Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom has people at its core. We believe that in creating opportunities for people to share and connect using digital technologies, we can contribute to greater inclusivity and a more prosperous continent for all.

How You Can Participate

Work is already underway to establish Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom. We will be creating opportunities for our employees, customers, teachers, learners and many other stakeholders to add their voices to the design process. You can follow our progress and add your voice to the conversation on social media using #175Africa

We look forward to working with you to bring Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom online!

Content provided by Old Mutual

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Brand Voice

Op-Ed: Africa’s People-led Approach To Combat COVID-19 Shows Signs Of Progress And Leadership

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By Thandi Tobias

In its fight against the spread of COVID-19, our continent faces a massive challenge that requires unprecedented levels of unity and coordinated action. To prevail, we have to grasp without hesitation what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a ‘window of opportunity’ while it remains open for us to do so.

While our continent is home to many of the world’s fastest developing nations, it is also home to some of the most vulnerable. It is a known fact that the high prevalence of malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis among our people, puts our continent in an unfortunate position; one in which high death rates happen easily. That is why the country’s leadership had to act swiftly and decisively.

As Africans, itis essential that we focus on coordinated efforts in our shared battle against COVID-19.  Africa spans both hemispheres and consists of 55 member states. Our combined efforts and determination can and will see us through this challenging period. The second and follow-up virtual meeting of the ‘AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government’, held in April 2020, ended with solid plans for a more unified African response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to presentations by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau was also addressed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

All the heads of state in attendance expressed a shared apprehension over the unknown impact this virus stands to have on the health of citizens of Africa, as well as the unforeseeable economic impact it will have. The Heads of States and Governments discussed three broad themes and agreed to proceed to pursue several key solutions:

1.    Stronger inter-continental links for greater African solidarity

There was unanimous agreement on the urgent need to establish better humanitarian and trade corridors among countries; something they also agreed would require cohesive efforts from all participants.  All decisions would be in the best interest of the continent and its people.  This will also enable Africa to speak with one voice on Africa’s priorities. African leaders also agreed on the need for an immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, as no African state would be left alone to fight against the spread of COVID-19. It was resolved that without the burden of sanctions, Zimbabwe and Sudan would be better positioned to save lives.

2.    An aggressive medical response

Africa requires the production of medical supplies and equipment. The heads of states and governments called for international cooperation, support towards up-scaling local production of needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), medical supplies such as masks, gowns, ventilators, and other support devices, all of which are greatly needed in the continent.

Furthermore, the AU commended rapid action initiatives such as the ones coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation. Working with the World Food Programme and Africa CDC, they mobilised and distributed over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks, and 600,000 PPE items to all African Union member states in less than a week.

3.    Fundraising efforts

The AU is taking a multi-stakeholder approach towards raising needed financial and other forms of international support to strengthen the fight to flatten COVID-19 growth in Africa. The gathered Heads of States and Governments also noted the progress made in operationalising the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established on in March 2020. Members pledged the sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.

Africa’s Call

To win the battle against COVID-19, protect its citizens and, by extension, citizens of the world, the AU calls for the support pledged by the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be delivered without further delay. It also calls for these institutions to review their disbursement policies to unlock higher levels of flexibility, speed, and Africa’s access to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, the AU also supports the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa and the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external public and private debt. Such measures would benefit all Africans, as greater fiscal space would be created to resource the battle against COVID-19.

In conclusion, allow me to remind you all, of our South African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are – which also rings true in the hearts of all Africans and, I hope, inspires people around the world. It is in the spirit of this shared humanity that Africa’s call is made for the global support of our resilient, yet fragile continent.

Thandi Tobias is the Chairperson of Brand South Africa; the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation and to improve its global competitiveness.

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