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Five things that stand out for a first-time visitor to Rwanda

Five things that stand out for a first-time visitor to Rwanda

By Rebecca Ekpe

No street food vending in Kigali, at least I didn’t see any during my stay. I asked why and I was told ‘’you eat from restaurants or from your home’’.

Cleanest City in Africa

It certainly cannot be missed for a first-time visitor to Kigali, Rwanda, the clean ambiance that welcomes you out of the Kigali International Airport. Am told the people have been very deliberate about what has earned them the title; the Cleanest City in Africa.

The government has put in place a number of measures to maintain the cleanliness of the city. The most widely known is the ban of single-use plastic bags replacing them with biodegradable materials. Besides that, the monthly clean-ups are the credit.

‘’From the Presidency down to everyone, on every last Saturday of the month we all engage in cleaning, where all activities close from 7am to 11am, this we have been doing since 2003’’, a Cab driver shared with me what the motivation has been for the Rwandans to keep their environment clean.

As part of efforts to keep the fresh oxygen, trees have been planted. I was told of the mantra ‘’cut a tree, plant two’’. In actuality, the trees are watered by big trucks at night time to keep them fresh all the time.

It can be said that Rwanda is contributing positively to climate change by planting trees to save the environment and also considering alternatives to the use of coal.

Cleanliness is a personal motivation for Rwandans and cleaning the city is a responsibility enforced at the local level.

Free Visa

It is visa-free for all African nationals to enter Rwanda.

The African Union, AU in 2016 launched the African Passport and Free Movement of people aimed at removing restrictions on Africans ability to travel, work and live within their own continent. The AU also launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, a continent-wide free trade area estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, which aims to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people and to boost economic development.

Rwanda’s free visa to African Nationals is actualizing the African Union’s vision of trade liberalization across Africa.

It is worthy of note that all one needs to cross borders in Eastern African Countries is just an Identity Card (ID). So, for Rwandans, Ugandans, Kenyans a passport is not required to cross each other’s territory within the East African Countries.

Safety and security

“You can walk anytime you want” that is how safe Rwanda is and this is not a compromise. The Government has invested tremendously in the safety and security of the people. Police Personnel are deployed at vantage points in the city. At the airport, sniffer dogs are also deployed. The checkpoints at the airport are a very thorough exercise, if you make your way through the Kigali International Airport. The Hotel security does not take chances, the scanners at the entry points actually work!

Love for Kagame

According to a BBC Report, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has confirmed that he will run for a fourth term in 2024. This could extend Mr. Kagame’s presidency to nearly three decades.

“I am happy with the confidence that Rwandans have in me,” President Kagame told French-language magazine Jeune Afrique in an interview.

Mr Kagame won the last presidential election in 2017 with nearly 99% of the vote. In the magazine interview, the President said that he was happy to carry on as long as Rwandans wanted him to stay and serve them.

He had previously hinted that he could run for re-election, but this is the first time that he has categorically stated he will be a candidate in the 2024 poll scheduled for August.

“He has taken our country to another level”, says a Cab Driver who shared sentiments why Rwandans have such a big love for their President, explaining why they will again give him the mandate in the 2024 August Election.

Use of motor bikes

Getting around the city limits is a concern for every first-time visitor. In Kigali, perhaps the easiest way to get around the city is by the use of motorbikes. The discipline in the movement of the bikes is worth noticing. A driver will not move until the user wears a helmet. Any visitor to Kigali cannot miss the discipline in the road users in observing traffic stops and maneuvering the roads.

Rebecca Ekpe (in orange dress) shares time with young Rwandan Journalists

Exiting Rwanda, the Statistical Department was on hand taking information on experiences and expenses. A young lady approached me just as I made my way out of the security checkpoint, headed for my Boarding Gate. Can I ask you some questions please Madam”, she introduced herself as from the Statistical Department and sought my permission to collect data on my observations, expenditure and experiences. I was candid and told her it looked like Rwanda is set to take Africa by storm, given the level of seriousness exhibited by the people I interfaced with within the hospitality industry. In a nutshell, I am impressed with what I saw in Rwanda, Kigali is a beautiful place!

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