Rwanda has undergone major socioeconomic transformation over the past 14 years, thanks to joint efforts between government, development partners and the private sector, to invest in areas that impact the lives of people.
The observation was made by Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa, who is in Rwanda on a working visit that saw her visit different projects across the country funded by the World Bank.
The World Bank is one of Rwanda’s largest development partners with key support in various sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, education, skills development, social protection, among others.
Kwakwa, who visited Rwanda 14 years after her last deployment in the country, said that what the country has achieved over that period is impressive and shows that investing in areas that impact the lives of ordinary citizens pays off.
The World Bank official on Friday met and held talks with President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro where they discussed “the exponential growth in electrification across the country and the World Bank plan to prioritize private sector investment and poverty reduction” according to the highest office.
Speaking earlier after holding talks with Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, Kwakwa said that the trip was more of a homecoming for her and an opportunity to witness the strides the country has made since her departure.
“I lived in Rwanda between 2006 and 2009. So, for me, this trip was a homecoming. In the last few days that I’ve been here, I’ve just been amazed by what Rwanda has achieved just in the 14 years that I’ve been away,”
“In several respects, there’s been major transformations that have happened. In terms of access to energy, Rwanda has got from just 6 percent access to over 60 percent in terms of regular usage of electricity,” Kwaka said.
“That means a huge difference and very few countries achieve such progress and such success,” she added.
Kwaka said that she toured different parts of the country, particularly in rural districts such as Burera, where she visited schools that have been connected to electricity and equipped with computers for children to use.
She also visited health centres that have been connected to the grid so that they can keep the vaccine cold chain and connected to computers and the internet to digitize all the data and information they collect, which said improves efficiency.
“We have small businesses that are coming up because people have access to electricity. That was so heartwarming to see,” Kwakwa said about her upcountry excursion.
Kwakwa hailed the progress the Rwandan government has made in strengthening the education sector as well as efforts to build human capital.
Particularly, the World Bank VP said that she was impressed to see the home-based Early Childhood Development Centres (EDCs), where parents, guardians and caregivers are trained on early childhood care and other aspects such as nutrition.
Kwakwa said that the ECD programme has huge beneficial spillover effects because at these centres, children’s cognitive skills are stimulated in their early formative years, which is very important for the country.
“It’s evidence of the government’s commitment to invest in the human capital of Rwandans,” she observed.
The WB official said that she also visited different agricultural projects and saw the impressive work being done to improve agriculture productivity and food security for that matter.
She said investments in different areas including irrigation, water resources management, providing quality inputs and fertilizer to farmers as well as factoring in the nutritional component, is paying off.
“Again, this speaks to the possibility of raising agricultural productivity so that it can push growth and growth that helps even the poorest,” Kwakwa said.
Sustainable urban development
Beyond rural areas and agriculture, Kwakwa said that during her visit she checked out some of the urban development work that is being done in Rwanda, pointing out that one of the things that impressed her is how the country is rehabilitating urban areas to prevent them from developing into slums.
She particularly singled out the work that has been done to turn Nyamirambo in Nyarugenge district into a liveable urban area with walkways and the car free zone where people can go sit, relax and enjoy.
She observed that such efforts make urban development more sustainable, adding that as she concluded her visit, she was very impressed with what the country is doing.
“I come away very impressed with what we Rwanda has achieved in a short time, and we, as the World Bank, really are privileged and honoured to be able to walk this journey with Rwanda,” Kwakwa said.
More work to do
Regardless of the gains, Kwakwa said there is a lot more work to do to improve the same areas; that is scaling up access to electricity for all, investing more in human capital development and improving agricultural productivity.
“There’s so much to do, but what Rwanda has achieved today shows that it is possible and so, we are delighted by this possibility, and we want to continue to be a strong partner to Rwanda going forward,” she said.
Kwakwa said she visited one of the areas in the Northern Province which was affected by the May weather calamities that hit different parts of the country, pointing out that the World Bank is looking to support Rwanda in rehabilitation and resilience efforts.
“One of the sites I visited is in the Volcanoes region where the flood damage was the most severe and really our sincere condolences to all the people of Rwanda for the lives that were lost,”
“It points to the importance of the resilience agenda. In the short term, we are working to bring support to the families that have suffered,” she said.
Kwakwa revealed that they are working on a volcano’s community resilience project to address the issue of climate resilience in the northern part of the country, including putting in place early warning systems and making sure that infrastructure is built in a manner that makes it less susceptible to climate-related effects.