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Rwanda: Challenge the change, the way towards sustainable development

Written by Aimé Sindayigaya and edited by Jules Niyibizi

Rwanda is a developing country located in East Central Africa in the Great Lakes region. It shares its border with four countries that include; Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Uganda. It is a small landlocked country with an area covering 26,340 Km2 with no significant natural resources and a very fast growing population. Nevertheless, Rwanda has been experiencing progressive economic and human development since gaining its independence in 1962. For instance, the country’s economy grew consistently from the 1960’s to 1980’s. This sustained growth was said to have been driven at the time by Rwanda’s favourable terms of trade, prudent financial policies, generous external aid receipts and an exceptional egalitarian distribution of arable land among Rwandans, which led to the equal redistribution of income among them. Culture was also one of the driving forces of the economic growth in Rwanda between the 1960’s and 1980’s. The cultural factor is explained by the powerful custom of solidarity that is common among Sub-Saharan Africans which ensures the poor are looked after by those with relatively more wealth. Despite the economic slowdown that Rwanda experienced from the late 1980’s to the late 1990’s caused by the fall in the price of coffee (The country’s main commodity export), devaluation of the Rwandan currency, agricultural production decreases due to climate change and the 1990 civil war that lasted for four years. Rwanda was able to increase its human development from approximately 0.275 in 1980’s to 0.429 in 2011. Rwanda is now praised worldwide for having made convivial progress in regards to human development particularly in gender equality, combating HIV/AIDs and other diseases, maintaining strong macro-economic performance.

In spite of the aforementioned remarkable changes in development made by Rwanda since its independence, there is still more to be accomplished for Rwanda to attain a reasonable economic status and a sustainable human development for its entire population. Rwanda is facing the issue of controlling its growing population. Rwanda’s population grew from 3.6 million in 1970 to 8.2 million in 2000. In 2011 the population in Rwanda was estimated to have reached 10.7 million. Rwanda is now considered to be one of the highest population densities in sub-Saharan Africa. Experts say that it is unlikely that Rwanda will meet its goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015 as a result of the country’s high population growth. It is certain that the rapid growth of the Rwandan population could adversely impact other sectors linked to human development and economic growth such as; health, education, infrastructure and the environment. Population growth is not the only challenge that Rwanda is facing. The country’s external debt is continuously soaring. Over the past 40 years the value of total external debt has grown from standing at $2 million in 1970 to $1.65 billion in 2004. Despite the fact that Rwanda’s debt was reduced to $400 million in 2006 it has almost doubled in the preceding four years and was estimated at $800 million in 2010 (Source: World Bank, Global Development Finance). There is also increasing concerns that Rwanda’s high economic growth rates mask large and growing inequalities and as a result, Rwanda will not be able to reduce poverty through its current economic growth pattern alone. In fact Rwanda does face many issues with regards to human development and a list of them can be found in the Rwanda Vision 2020 documents published by the country’s ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in July 2000.

It is clear that more hard work from Rwanda’s fast growing population is needed to guarantee the well-being of the country’s future generations.

To achieve this, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda should start by directing some of the energy and momentum they engage in discussing Rwandan politics into a debate about how to achieve sustainable economic and human development in Rwanda. By taking notice of the small changes in development that the country has attained since it gained its independence, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda should enthusiastically challenge the development changes that are taking place in Rwanda so that the country current leadership is continuously held accountable of the sustainable development for all Rwandans and any prospective leaders hinted about the tough responsibilities awaiting for them and start to forcibly prepare accordingly. Rwandans and friends of Rwanda should visualise the development changes attained in Rwanda with a postmodernism perspective, one that has no right or wrong approach, and start scrutinising and debating about these changes so that existing and new practices to bring about sustainable development in the country are either improved or innovated for better results.

How to challenge the changes?

The solidarity culture that was said to be among the driving force of the progressive economic growth in Rwanda between 1960’s and 1980’s can still be noticed among Rwandans today. For instance, through remittance made by Rwandans living and working abroad to Rwandans living in the country. These remittances have a huge and positive impact to the Rwanda’s economic growth and human development. The use of culture to bring about sustainable development should not be limited to only making remittance to Rwanda. Rwandans and friends of Rwanda should also use their intercultural diversity know how that they are embedded in with, and collectively craft constructive and critical insightful ideas and use them to challenge and inspire the development changes that are taking place in Rwanda with intention to improve existing policies and to innovate ideas which could bring about sustainable development in Rwanda.

Today, Rwandans travel abroad more than ever and some of them have settled in different developed and emerging nations worldwide, it is without doubt that Rwandans possess an intercultural background since they have learnt so much by travelling and living abroad. Nonetheless, they have not exploited yet the intelligence, knowledge and wisdom gained from the cultural diversity they have been exposed to and use them to generate ideas that could bring about sustainable economic and human development in Rwanda. It is that same intercultural know how that Rwandans living inside and outside the country and friends of Rwanda should utilise to challenge the development changes that are taking place in Rwanda. In words, Rwandans and friends of Rwanda should maximise their potential in contributing towards bringing about sustainable development in Rwanda by not only continuously making remittance to Rwanda but also through cross-fertilisation of innovative and pragmatic ideas that are inspired by an international culture know how that they have embraced and learnt and that have been proven to work, which if applied in the context of Rwanda could bring about sustainable economic and human development in the country.


Insightful Quotient is a website that encourages debates on how to achieve sustainable development in developing countries using an intercultural cooperation. Therefore, we welcome your insightful arguments that provide scrutiny and ideas that can elaborate further the analysis and suggestions detailed in this article.

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