High-Speed Recovery: Twenty years after the genocide, Rwanda looks to a high-tech future
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Almost 20 years have passed since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when politicians, doctors, miners, merchants, and farmers killed about 800,000 of their fellow politicians, doctors, miners, merchants, and farmers in the East African nation of just 12 million. To this day, the 100-day horror remains one of the most appallingly efficient cases of systematic murder in modern history, and Rwanda, at least in the eyes of the West, remains synonymous with the chaos of its not-too-distant past.
Now, however, Rwanda is gaining attention for something else. Under President Paul Kagame—who put an end to the genocide with his then-rebel group the Rwandan Patriotic Front when the world hesitated to intervene—the country’s GDP has grown by an average of just over 8 percent every year since 2001, raising a million people out of poverty. The World Bank ranked Rwanda as the second-most business-friendly place on the continent (32nd globally), behind the island nation of Mauritius; Transparency International named it the least corrupt state in the region (49th globally); and the advocacy organization ONE, co-founded by Bono, placed it in the lead alongside Mali as the closest to fulfilling the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which cover everything from increasing education to reducing poverty to expanding health care. And when it comes to gender equality, at 64 percent, Rwanda currently has the highest proportion of female lower-house MPs in the world.
Yet all these achievements appear humble in comparison with the country’s long-term aims. The government’s mission statement, Rwanda Vision 2020, lays out a path for the nation to reach middle-income status by skipping an industrialization period altogether, fostering an economy based instead on communications and information technology.