East Africa: Student reflections from three days in Rwanda

As we departed Rwanda, I asked my classmates to share their insights from our three days in Kigali. Here are some of their thoughts:

  1. We found Rwandans to be optimistic and future-focused, demonstrating resilience in the decades after the 1994 genocide.
  2. We were impressed by the commitment (and follow-through!) of the Rwandan government and people to be a world leader in gender equity.
  3. The heavily-involved government has taken strong, decisive steps to drive Rwanda forward.

Reflection 1: We found Rwandans to be optimistic and future-focused, demonstrating resilience in the decades after the 1994 genocide.

“I saw strength, resilience and pride in all Rwandan people whom I had conversations with. They all seemed to share the common goal to overcome the distressed history and to make their country even better and successful. I believe this spirit has been the key to transforming the country’s economy.” -Sachi Nakano

“The people of the country are so eager to become a great economy of Africa and the world and escape the shadow cast by the 1994 genocide.” -Chris Pacicco

“I was impressed by the resilience and unity of the Rwandan people in dealing with the tragedy of 1994. They have been able to turn around the country in a successful case of economic development.” -Frederico Lopes

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide and elements of it still feel very heavy in Rwanda. I have been astonished, however, by the incredible resilience and self-reliance that have moved the Rwandans to push forward. The reforms and the programs that the government has put in place has facilitated this country’s accelerated social and economic growth. In a matter of two decades, Rwanda has managed to convert 43% illiteracy in 1994 to 70% literacy today; become the 2nd country in Africa on the World Bank’s ranking for Ease of Doing Business; and lead in promoting women empowerment and equality as #4 in the world with 63% of parliament seats being served by women. We have been incredibly blessed to have witnessed how a tarnished past became a hopeful present and how a hopeful present is becoming a promising future.” -Jeannette Paulino

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Students on a walking tour of Nyamirambo, one of Kigali’s oldest neighborhoods

Reflection 2: We were impressed by the commitment (and follow-through!) of the Rwandan government and people to be a world leader in gender equity.

“The women are incredibly empowered and confident (as they should be!) in Rwanda. We heard the people at RDB explicitly state that this is a priority for the government and it is clearly working.” -Stef Otterspoor

Reflection 3: The heavily-involved government has taken strong, decisive steps to drive Rwanda forward.

“President Kagame has been an incredibly energetic leader and did not shy away from making the necessary changes to catapult Rwanda into a new economic and social dimension. For instance, switching from French to English as the official language of instruction in 2008 to favor integration in East African community was a strong decision.” -Gauthier Denoyelle

“I’ve been impressed by the order and the clear vision this country has for its future. Short-term, medium-term, and long-term planning have been followed and implemented in recent years, bringing the economy to maintain its fast pace growth. Rwanda is now in the top positions in most rankings for gender equality, ease of doing business, etc.” -Davide Pugliese

“Rwanda is a beautiful country with a lot of challenges, but it has a government and people committed to change and improvement, which is exciting to see.” -John Plaisted

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Lindy Gould, Davide Pugliese, and Thaiza Alvim at Rwanda Trading Co., which exports 23% of Rwanda’s yearly coffee production

Lindy Gould ’19 is an MBA candidate at Columbia Business School

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