Rwanda day is a day where Rwandese in the diaspora come together to discuss progress and challenges facing Rwanda. This year’s (2019) event was held in Bonn, Germany on 5th October.
Rwanda recognizes the importance of its diaspora population and the positive impact it can have on its economy. Rwanda has benefited tremendously from this initiative, and that’s why we believe that other African countries should consider creating their own versions of Rwanda day to engage their respective diaspora for the socio-economic development of their nation.
Increased remittances and investment
One of the direct benefits of Rwanda day has been increased remittances and investments by the Rwandese diaspora to Rwanda. The Rwandan government realized the value of remittances and investment and embarked on a charm offensive to woo its diaspora population. According to DW, Rwanda diaspora remitted $ 181.9 million in 2016/2017, a 17% rise from 2015/2016. In fact, Rwanda’s remittance as a percentage of GDP has been on a growth trajectory over the past decade, while Africa’s remittance as a percentage of GDP has remained flat. From 2015 to 2018, Rwanda’s remittance as a percentage of GDP went from 0.3% to 2.74%.
In order to attract its diaspora’s investments, the Rwandan government implemented policies that provide a favorable environment for doing business; including legal and financial reforms, tax incentives, and private sector friendly administrative procedures. Consequently, diaspora members have been more motivated to invest in their homeland. In recent years, the Rwandan diaspora has been credited for the construction of high standard buildings; and is linked with recent developments of real estate market services.
Rwandan day serves to (1) showcase improvements in ease of doing business and key initiatives to support diaspora investors; (2) sport current success stories; and (3) promote strategic sectors for investment. Other African countries should emulate this initiative to help funnel their more diaspora capital in their nation-building projects.
Exchange of ideas
Events such as Rwanda day provide an opportunity to collectively ideate, find community support and promote various initiatives for the homeland. In 2008, members of the Rwandan diaspora started a ‘One Dollar Campaign’ fundraising initiative to provide shelter for genocide survivors. They were inspired by similar fundraising campaigns in the West, which they applied for the benefit of their country. This led to 20,000+ diaspora members mobilizing a symbolic one dollar each to build a hostel that is situated in Kigali’s Gasabo district. This accomodation now lodges over 190 orphans of the genocide.
As entrepreneurs, civil leaders and professionals in foreign countries, diasporans bring a diversity of experiences, which they can lend to the design of innovative policy solutions to Africa’s development roadblocks. Events similar to Rwandan day should be leveraged to instill in the diaspora that their ideas in participation in home policies and politics are welcomed and needed.
Attracting talents back to Africa
Africa’s most talented minds seek out and jump at the opportunity of going abroad for studies and employment. While it could have been argued in the past that Africa couldn’t provide the best career opportunities and environment for its talent pool we believe that this argument is dated. Africa today is no more “the hopeless continent” of the 1990s. It’s a continent of emerging political stability, economic growth, growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and natural resource discoveries. A Rwanda day equivalent can be an opportunity for African countries and companies to market themselves as ideal grounds for skilled diasporans to practice their expertise and talent, and contribute to this Africa’s renouveau.
According to a report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Africa spends approximately $21,000 to $ 59,000 to train a single doctor. Africa loses when these professionals go to work abroad. The report also states that in the USA for instance, there were 13,584 African trained medical personnel in 2015, which constituted an increase of 27.1% from 2005. African governments should harness the power of occasions like Rwanda day to sell the African dream to diaspora professionals.
Preserving African culture
African diaspora from West Africa, particularly Nigeria, have strived to stick to their culture while in foreign states. A Rwanda day would play a significant role in promoting African culture among Africans in the diaspora and their offspring. This is important to grow diaspora pride in their heritage, while reinforcing their connection to the homeland.
The Rwandan government creation of a Rwanda day is a welcomed initiative that should be replicated by all African countries. The African diaspora, with its high intellectual and financial capacity could be the wild card that helps solve some of Africa’s biggest challenges.