I'm so thankful to partner with Brie McNeal of Ethically Curated for today's blog post about Rwanda! Brie has been working in international development in several capacities for over 10 years and is always trying to find new ways to help others understand global issues and everyday ways we can all create a more socially responsible world.
by Brie McNeal
If you have noticed a trend on some of my more recent posts, you may see that I like to write a lot about India.
This is because I have been there so many times and I have been in love with the country for most of my life.
However, this does not mean that I don’t share a love for all countries of the world and that doesn’t mean I will only cover India.
In fact, I’ve been spending the last few weeks doing extensive research on a few countries in Africa as I’ll be rolling out information on traditional crafts from the mother land soon.
And just like most of my readers haven’t visited India, I don’t think I need to have visited these countries like Rwanda just to make a post. ;)
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF A FLOURISHING COUNTRY
I think Americans have a certain idea of what Rwanda looks like today. This is based on the media continuing to focus on the tragic events of the genocide in 1994.
In fact, while I was researching, I typed ‘Rwanda’ into the search bar and it auto fills ‘genocide’ before anything else.
If you would like to learn more, there are many resources here. Today, I would like to focus on how the country has rebuilt in the last 24 years.
I also want this to be an opportunity to give an introduction to how consumers in the across the world can help.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ADVANCEMENTS
There are many news outlets reporting Rwanda to be the fastest growing economy in Africa.
With the GDP having an annual growth of 6 to 8% for the last few years no one sees signs of this stopping.
Rwanda has always been able to sustain itself in terms of food supply thanks to the 7 million individuals in the agricultural sector.
There has been an increase in foreign aid due to improved international relations with the president insert name here.
This growth can be attributed to many factors including some of the advancements that even the government has placed.
Traditionally an agricultural country the government is now making efforts to transition to a knowledge based economy.
This means a there is a commitment to investing in technology for students learn code, design, and engineering.
The desired outcome is that Rwanda can continue to be competitive in the global market.
There have also been several initiatives to improve the environment throughout Rwanda.
If you’ve had the chance to visit were one of the last few years you’ll notice that the streets are cleaner than ever and there are multiple corporations moving to green energy.
CHALLENGE FROM RAPID GROWTH
While it is true that one is economy is growing and quickly, the government tends to promote misrepresenting information about this growth.
There is a fear among civilians that as other countries see Rwanda is growing quickly they might reduce aid. If the country is thriving and seemingly self sufficient, foreign aid should be allocated elsewhere, right?
Although there are great advancements happening currently the aid and non-profit structure in Rwanda is crippling.
The last 24 years have brought so many outside organizations to the country who now support the economic growth in one way or another.
This means if everyone pulled out at once, the same economic success may not be sustained.
Other social concerns include 60% of the population still live on less than $1.25 a day.
It is my personal speculation that the continued involvement of NGOs have meant that local innovation has been stunted and resulted in lack of job opportunities.
As the environmental advancement thrive, it may be coming at a cost of human rights.
In an effort to keep streets clean, homeless communities are being transported to transit centers . These centers have been deemed unlawful by the Human Rights Watch due to innocent civilians being subject to abusive conditions simply for being poor.
THE AID RWANDA REALLY NEEDS
Investing in social enterprises and other local markets can help Rwanda continue to grow as an international player without relying on financial aid.
There have been some recent changes in the business and trade sectors making it hard for small businesses to thrive. Similar to restraints in India , renting space, investing in machines and other inputs, prevent many from being successful when creating products for international markets.
Recently, there has been a surge of Ankara textiles (or more commonly dutch wax print) in the fashion scene. This has provided tremendous opportunity for artisans to obtain dignified jobs that can provided consistent work.
Consumers can participate in this by buying from organizations that partner with these businesses.
So what did you think? Is there other surprising advancements Rwanda has made that I missed? Let me know in the comments!
If you want to learn how you can start supporting Rwandan Artisan businesses, be sure to read my other posts about becoming and Ethical Shopper!
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-Brie McNeal, Ethically Curated