What Rwanda can teach us?

A recent business trip to Rwanda in East Africa allowed me to discover “the country of a thousand hills.” Unknown to many I think this stunning country deserves to be put in the spotlight. There’s many things we can learn from Rwanda, also called the Switzerland of Africa.

1. First there’s the care for the environment. Mr. Kagame, the president, banned plastic bags. That’s right: you cannot bring plastic bags in and there’s none to be seen anywhere.

2. On top of this bold move, the whole country is called to community service every last Saturday of the month to clean up the environment – a movement called Umuganda. Everyone participates, schoolchildren, the young and the old. Community elders decide where to clean. This makes the whole country is cleaner than my own, Belgium. People sweeping the streets is a very common sight.

3. Another success is the conservation success story of the gorillas – almost extinct in the 70s, you can visit them in a responsible way. In small groups of maximum eight visitors and for maximum one hour each day. A life changing experience that puts you up close and personal with our cousins.

4. Women rule, literally. Women in leadership is a reality in Rwanda. The country has a majority of women in parliament: 64% to be precise. In addition to some high ranking female officials in the Rwandan Development Board and the East African Federation.

5. And, finally, the most impressive and moving of all, is forgiveness. The horrific genocide only lies 20 years in the past, but the country has known a remarkable rebuilding period. The genocide history is present and represented very movingly at the genocide memorial. People in the country live in harmony, in villages which – by law – mix the three major ethnicities. More than one person told me: “We are all Rwandans.”

My week here has been fantastic. I met some warm and inspiring people in community projects like the Nyamirambo Women Center in Kigali or Niyo Gallery, an art center taking care of street kids.

If you want to discover this amazing country, consider staying at the new Radisson Blu hotel and Congress Center in Kigali.