When Euromoney, one of the world’s leading finance magazines, recently named Rwanda’s first ever Eurobond as “2013 Deal of the Year” only those who failed in the past to observe the Phoenix rise from the ashes could have been truly surprised, that the US$400 million bond issue was not just subscribed to at a fast pace but got such accolades from Europe’s leading financial pundits.
Tourism and aviation are two of the main beneficiaries of the funds raised, and the presence of Rwanda’s Minister for Finance Claver Gatete yesterday at the Kigali International Airport, witnessing the arrival of RwandAir’s latest acquisition, a brand new Bombardier Q400 NextGen, showed the continued close interest of the Rwandan government in supporting this venture as a strategic investment. “This is a proud moment,” he said when being introduced to this correspondent by RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge at the airport’s Pearl Lounge and when he was shown the interior of the new 67-seater, dual-class aircraft he was visible certain that it was money well spent and that the airline could be sure of the government’s continued support.
350 million overall of the Eurobond funds are in fact being spent on both RwandAir and the ongoing construction of the Kigali International Convention Centre, and the adjoining 5 star hotel while the balance will be invested in a new hydro-electric power plant to address the sharp growth in electricity connections and consumption by newly established industries, the business sector at large and by domestic consumers. While questions have been asked if Kigali does need another 5 star hotel and a large convention Centre, the answer of many in the country’s tourism industry is a resounding Yes as the sector has in past years grown in leaps and bounds, largely based on the global pull Rwanda has as an A-grade gorilla tracking destination. “Gorilla tourism has got us where we are today but we need more in the future, need to diversify, to sustain growth,” said a regular source in Kigali yesterday before adding “MICE business is growing for the entire continent and in East Africa in particular. Our team at ITB will no doubt use their presence to work the market to bring conference business to Rwanda. And RwandAir’s growth over the past years and their plans for the future go hand in hand with this effort. Our national airline plays a very important role in this equation to bring visitors from across Africa to Rwanda. We fly to key hubs to pick up traffic from there because for now RwandAir does not fly intercontinental routes. RwandAir connects Kigali on a daily basis with Lagos, with Johannesburg and with Nairobi and our policy of Visa on arrival for citizens of AU member countries has also helped a lot to bring more visitors in.”
The World Bank in fact has recognized these developments too and named Rwanda as the country where it was easiest in Africa to start a business and ranked number 32 of 189 in the world for ease of doing business after investing in the country. Regional powerhouse Kenya, in comparison, only came in as number 129, putting into some perspective the remarkable rise Rwanda experienced over the past years.
The opening later this year of the first Marriott Hotel in East Africa further underscores the fact that Rwanda has become a choice destination and when the new convention Centre hotel opens under the Radisson Blue brand of global hospitality chain Rezidor Rwanda can put another feather in her cap.
Fiber optic links, established last year, with the main operators which landed their infrastructure in Mombasa, plans to build a new standard gauge railway which will connect the port of Mombasa, via Nairobi and Kampala, with Kigali and of a pipeline extension from Kenya’s town of Eldoret, again via Kampala to Kigali, are all aimed at reducing the cost of doing business in Rwanda by offering cheaper cargo rates and bring the price of fuel down, two key areas which need addressing to raise the annual GDP growth rate from presently 6.6 percent (average over the past years) towards the double digits.
Visitors to Kigali, the capital city, in fact constantly remark how clean, well-organized and safe the city is, and while traffic jams too are now part of daily life, drivers remain disciplined unlike in other regional capitals, perhaps encouraged by the omnipresence of traffic police at literally every intersection. The signboard at the airport, when leaving the car park that Rwanda is a “corruption-free zone” also leaves an imprint on visitor’s minds, especially as they can see in their encounters with government officials that this is indeed the case.
As the country moves towards the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in early April it is evident that indeed the Phoenix has risen from the ashes and continues to fly high, a place with a bright future and for certain a place to watch in coming years.
For more information on key aspects about Rwanda visit www.rwandatourism.com