When the founder and CEO of African Leadership Group, Fred Swaninker visited the Rwandan campus of Africa Leadership University(ALU) last year, a student stood up and asked him why he chose to invest in Rwanda among African countries.
“I was attracted by the visionary, transformational leadership that is citizen-centered, security, and the pace of Rwanda’s development,” he said.
Twenty-six years down the road, here we are. Today, more than ever, we are united and defeating old stereotypes to move towards political, social, and economic progress. In 2017, Our government launched the 7 Year Government Programme: National Strategy for Transformation (NST1). According to the Government of Rwanda, NST 1 targets are ambitious but achievable.
Rwanda has taken a step ahead to improve its education system, most of our community now understand our Shift to a Knowledge-Based Economy. All stakeholders are slowly but surely recognizing their roles and how to execute them. Among the strategy’s priorities is Social Transformation. One priority for this pillar is ensuring quality education for all, aiming at a knowledge-based economy.
Though there are different handles in the education sector, the government is working tirelessly to reduce and overcome the challenges. The government has provided an attractive secure working environment that has attracted foreign international recognized universities and education supporting organizations like Bridge to Rwanda, African Leadership University, Oklahoma Christian University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Global Health Equity, Akilah Institute for Women, Kepler and African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS Rwanda), Rwanda Institute For Conservation Agriculture (RICA) where majority scholars are Rwandans and others from different nationalities across the continent.
The coming of these universities is surely making a significant impact on the sort of traditional mindset and the system used. They are giving an excellent example of what to expect from a higher learning institution, in terms of skills and competence. This will obviously boost the NST1.
When I was applying to join the ALU community back in then, I was at the same time applying for other international universities. My Priority was ALU because it would reduce cost and I was expecting to get quality education. Most of the students would wish something like this and more.
Most of us graduate from high school with a dream to get a good college in the United States, and we feel that it’s the only way to improve our family’s standards.
While attracting these foreign universities and institutes, Rwanda is changing our mentalities on order of priorities.
When we think about the quality of education these universities offer, it is also important to note how they are contributing to our employment while also building Rwanda’s brand in a country which is positioning itself as a tourist destination.
Consider for example the ALU with more than 800 students from different parts of the continent.
I recently chatted with Gaidi Faraj Dean, Head of College at ALU Rwanda. According to him, they have invested $15 million in their new campus at Kigali Innovation City. The construction project employed over 400 workers from the local community.
They have a full-time staff of over 80 people and expect to double that number in a couple of years. They also invested over $1 million in Kigali Heights in their time there.
Every foreign student/staff in the country contributes to the boost of business somewhere. Consider for example, that half of the ALU students are international students who spend money on flights and local transport and accommodation among other logistics which earn a living to a local investor to some extent.
A research study conducted by Oluwafumbi Asunmonu, a permanant staff at ALU established that 57.5% of Rwandan Students at ALU would have chosen to study abroad if ALU did not open in Rwanda when it did.
⦁ 73.2% of ALU Students visit different restaurants and places of entertainment monthly.
⦁ 41% of ALU students are employed, 58% are employed by companies based in Rwanda and 36% are employed by ALU. 93% do formal jobs and pay taxes to the Rwandan Government (48% of these are International Students).
⦁ 82% of ALU students have a Rwandan bank account regularly used for financial transactions.
⦁ 56.6% of ALU students give back to the community by volunteering, rebuilding houses, teaching children in rural areas, visiting orphanages, and donating.
⦁ 78.1 % of ALU students participate in Umuganda.
⦁ 67.7% of Ventures owned by ALU Students do not operate in ALU.
⦁ 49.2% of all Ventures at ALU are owned by Rwandan Students.
Trust me, this is beyond quality education to our community. One of the importance of having such ambitions like NST1, is that it helps the country achieve its goals and evaluate the progress on time hence improving the living standards for the general public.
No wonder, the government of Rwanda spared no effort to tackle a number of education challenges from policymaking to drawing foreign investments in the sector. However, inconsistent frameworks, incompetent graduates, unqualified trainers, and other grows still characterize the sector. It’s a journey, right? This reminds us that we are a developing country and more efforts need to be brought together to fight these challenges to achieve NST1 on a bigger scale. It begins with you and me.