East Africa Rising: Rwanda, Rwanda!
On 27 June, on the invitation of RwandAir and Rwanda Development Board, the host & Head of Research and Communications of AIF found himself in Rwanda to join other West African media practitioners, and tour operators from the East African region in what would be a whistle-stop tour of Rwanda. The invitees would first find themselves engaged in the community-based “umuganda”, which has become standard fare on the last Saturday of each month. Then, it was off to Nyanza, which is a town located in the Southern province of the country. There, the visitors were treated to the rich culture and tradition of Rwandans and introduced to what was once the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda from 1958 to 1962 during the stay of Rwanda’s colonizers.
It must be said that apart from visiting the two borders between Rwanda and DRC some 10 minutes from the plush Lake Kivu Serena Hotel in the Northern province, where one obtained a useful insight into life across Rwanda’s francophone neighbor that is not a member of the East African Community, perhaps the indisputable highlight of the trip was in Musanze – at the “Kwita Izina” where we played host to an amazing ceremony…to name gorillas.
Forget Sigourney Weaver in the 1988 film “Gorillas in the Midst”. We were treated to the real deal. We visited the Dr.Dian Fossey Memorial Fund for Gorillas, which inspired the said movie. Though we regrettably did not see any live gorillas, we spent a whole day in the beautiful and scenic Musanze—set against the backdrop of undulating hills and volcanoes that reached almost the heavens – where we would witness the naming of no less than eighteen gorillas.
To be present in the beautiful and clean country (that is Rwanda) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the gorilla-naming ceremony at a time when this landlocked East African country was reflecting over 20 years of an egregious past, is more than a priviledge.
But even as we celebrate this beautiful new star of Africa, we must begin to ask important questions on how it has been able to link conservation and tourism to development in a way that is reflected through the annual gorilla-naming ceremony. As Ghana prepares itself to host the UN World Tourism Organisation international conference on Tourism Branding, what lessons can it learn from Rwanda which makes up to USD300m a year on tourism?
Ø Ignatius Ahimbisibwe, Sales & Marketing, Rwandair
Ø Francis Agyemang, Commercial director, Eurotours
Ø Ambassador Joseph Habineza, High Commissioner of Rwanda to Abuja & Accra
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