Allen and I have arrived once again in Rwanda! The most direct flight takes us through Brussels and then non-stop to Kigali and always lands after dark. As our plane approached the airport we could see that the radius of street light illumination and electricity in homes in the city has grown noticeably since our last trip just this past March.
Another development is MTN’s extension of its service to include email delivery on Blackberries. The next day as we headed to our meeting with US Ambassador Stuart Symington I saw billboards all over Kigali adverting the merits of owning one. Two high-rise buildings that were in the skeletal phase of construction in March have filled out nicely and I am sure next trip, several months from now, will be close to finished. I hardly recognize the hillsides of Kigali each time I return. Old shantytowns comprised of mud huts with bent and rusted red corrugated roofs, large plots of banana trees and other crops and livestock are disappearing from the city.
It’s hard to doubt the Rwandan government’s commitment and ability to deliver long-term development and growth given what I have seen not only in the city but in the rural areas as well. The aim is to bring improvements in infrastructure to all areas of the country to build a strong, stable middle class. Back in January 2006 on my first drive to Rwinkwavu ( 2 hours east of Kigali near the Tanzanian border) there were few electrical lines and no street lights en route. Now the grid extends the whole way along the main road (paved) and you can see that it has begun to reach down some of the smaller secondary dirt roads. Old houses are being replaced by new with well-kept yards filled with flowers and shrubs. In Kabarondo, where we turn off the main road for the 15 kilometer drive down a well graded dirt road to reach Rwinkwavu, all the buildings in the commercial district have gotten a facelift with fresh coats of paint in mint green, caribbean blue, watermelon and pumpkin. All signs that hope has returned.