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Thousands of Rwandans descend on Atlanta to meet their President

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
6:08 pm

Over 3000 Rwandans living in North America are preparing to meet Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Atlanta, USA, during the sixth edition of Rwanda Day, on September 19-20.

Former US President, Bill Clinton, a great friend of Rwanda, US Senators and Congressmen from Atlanta, movie and football stars have been invited to the event. In 2011, American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Jesse Jackson attended the event.

President Kagame will highlight the country’s progress over the past years and interact with the Diaspora how to contribute to national development.

Youth employment and entrepreneurship are expected to be the main subjects of the discussion. A job fair will also take place for networking and seeking future employers and employees. Rwanda aims at creating 200,000 new jobs every year. Unemployment rate stands at 3.4 per cent, from 1.2 per cent in 2002.

During the event, about 400 business executives from Rwanda will showcase local products and share success stories to encourage the Diaspora to invest in their country.

Angelique Karekezi, the Director of RWASHOSCCO, a Maraba premium coffee exporter, will exhibit both roasted and green coffee. “We are sell coffee to foreign companies only, but we would be glad to have Rwandans from Diaspora being interested in our brand. It would add more value to Rwandan coffee,” she said. Rwashoscco has 18 clients of their green coffee, from Asia, UK, and USA.

Sina Gerald, of Urwibutso Enterprise, which is involved in agricultural post-harvest industry will exhibit his passion juice; Agashya, chili pepper oil; Akabanga, and banana wine; Akarusho.

Mérald Mpabwanamaguru, a director at Kigali City Construction One Stop Centre will showcase the city’s master plan to attract investors in real estate and housing. “We want them to bring proposals for construction projects to close the housing gap,” he said.

Kigali City needs at least 3000 units every year to cater for its increasing population.

The Rwanda Stock Exchange is also expected at Atlanta to encourage the Diaspora buy shares on sale from Rwandan companies. Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s biggest bank, will woo the Diaspora into taking credit lines and investment loans.

Rwanda Day is one of Rwanda’s marketing stunts. It targets Rwandans with the potential to invest in the country, but also those can promote the country.

Parfait Gahamanyi, Director General of the Rwandan Community abroad says remittances from Rwanda’s Diaspora increased from $25m in 2006 to $115m in 2013.

The central bank says the increase in remittances is a result of mobilization of the diaspora by the government of Rwanda, through Rwanda Day, and the Rwandans Diaspora Global Network that was founded in 2011.

Central Bank Governor, John Rwangombwa said large portion of the remittances go into construction.

The One Dollar Project has constructed a $3m 4-storey hostel in Kigali for 190 genocide orphans.

Many members have bought houses in Kinyinya estate, one of Rwanda’s executive estates. Other funds went into buying shares into Bank of Kigali and Bralirwa, a local brewery.

Meanwhile, every Rwanda Day event carries a theme. This year’s theme is ‘Agaciro’ (Dignity): Our Choice. Participants are expected to discuss and give ideas on how Rwanda can work with the rest of the world to promote dignity.

The first event was held from Chicago in US, in June 2011 before another one to Paris, France in September of same year. In September 2012, the event returned in Boston, US. Last year, the Day shifted to London, UK and Toronto, Canada in May and September respectively.

Gaetan Gatete, a member of the organizing committee from the US, said hosting Rwanda day is a very long process. “The city has to be strategically positioned (airport, hotels, community, friends of Rwanda) to handle Rwanda Day; Atlanta is one of those cities.”

The event is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Rwanda Development Board.

Local Pop starts, Masamba Intore, Teta Diane and other artists, who will be part of the Rwandan delegation, are are currently running a campaign, with a tweeter hash-tag “#Twahisemo (We chose), to heat up the mood ahead of the event.


By Jean de la Croix Tabaro.