top of page

Phoenix from the Ashes: Rwanda’s Journey to Developed Nation Status

How did Rwanda turn it around?

Developed Nation: A developed country—also called an industrialized country—has a mature and sophisticated economy, usually measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and/or average income per resident.

For a long time, Rwanda was strongly associated with one thing: genocide. This was the only legacy that was recognisable as an outsider. But in recent years, Rwanda has been recognised as a flagship nation in other respects. With ambitious leadership and enthusiastic policies, Rwanda has its sights set on the “high-income nation” title and hopes to achieve this in as little as 30 years, with many analysts believing that they will get there. So, how did a nation recovering from the tragedy of genocide become one of east-Africa’s most spirited nations?

Ambitious Economic Goals

Although Rwanda is a small, landlocked nation, it has its eyes set on the prize, with ambitious development goals.

Despite vast amounts of the population living in relative poverty, the country hopes to achieve middle income status by 2035, and high-income status by 2050, securing a brighter future for her citizens. As ambitious as this sounds, many initiatives have been put in place to combat poverty and to grow the economy, which seem to be working, having experienced an annual economic growth rate of 7.2% for an entire decade, ending in 2019.


The Rwandan-based Airline, RwandAir, is the first, and as of now, the only airline in Africa to be awarded a Gold award for health and safety by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), a company that specialises in passenger health and safety.

Restoring African Beauty

Rwanda was also the first country in east Africa to ban skin lightening creams due to their harmful medical side effects. Some say that this was also done to combat colourism, and the idea that dark skin is unappealing or undesirable. In doing this, they have encouraged other nations, such as Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, to champion the natural expression of African beauty.

Slashing Poverty Rates

Poverty rates have also significantly dropped, from 77% of the population living in poverty in 2001 to 55% in 2017. With this, they have seen a 40-year increase in the life expectancy, from 29 years in the 1990s to 69 years in 2019. Although these figures show an improvement, the country still has significant issues with poverty and poor infrastructure, with only 17% of the population living in urbanised areas.

Women in Leadership

In addition to this, they also boast impressive gender diversity figures. In 2018, 61% of the parliamentary seats were filled by women.

Cleanest City in Africa

And as the cherry on the cake, Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, has been named the cleanest city in Africa. One of the ways the Rwandan-government achieved this is by banning all plastic bags, providing more waste bins around the city and by levelling fines for littering.

So, Who is Paul Kagame?

The audacious changes in the country’s trajectory are being spearheaded a man by the name of Paul Kagame. Kagame, who is a Tutsi, grew up in exile in Uganda. During the 1994 genocide, he led the Tutsi-Hutu opposition force that later took control of the nation and came into power. From 1994-2000, he served as the Vice President and Minister of Defence. Since 2000, Paul Kagame has served as the 4th President of Rwanda, and hails himself as the man who can heal the wounds of Post-genocide Rwanda and lead the nation to a brighter future.


The Leadership of Paul Kagame has been pulled into question. Some say he has destroyed democracy in the country, as he has been in power for over 25 years, having changed the constitution to allow him more time in office, with little signs of his resignation in the near future.

It has also been speculated that former members of his staff have been killed in strange and unusual circumstances, in which some people question Kagame’s involvement.

However, many say he is the Pan-African Hero that has been long awaited, openly encouraging African leaders to trade among themselves, and lessen reliance on non-African international players.

What should we make of this?

Rwanda represents a hope fulfilled for all African people: if a nation devastated by genocide can rise out of the ash of despair and set themselves firmly on the path of development, then so it can be in each and every African nation. Many believe that Rwanda should serve as the front runner for radical change in Africa. However, the contentious nature of Rwanda’s leadership pulls this idea into question. Although Kagame has strongly advocated for change in Rwanda, his contenders may suggest that he is not the leader that Africans should aspire to follow, due to his controversial form of leadership. What do you think?

Do you think Rwanda can achieve these ambitious goals? Should other African leaders learn from Paul Kagame’s example?

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Our Sources:

Image Credits

19 views1 comment

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating

Kagame is the best among leaders observed so far. His leadership style best fits out demands. I don't want to say this but he is of a rare kind. I need in

bottom of page