Photo Credit: Stuart Isaac Harrier
Happy Independence Day: 5 Things You Likely Didn't Know About Rwanda
The Republic of Rwanda, is a small, landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley. Located just south of the equator, the densely populated country is known as “the land of a thousand hills.” It is bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In honor of the country’s Independence Day (July 1), we wanted to share five things you likely didn’t know about the East African nation of Rwanda.
1. Rwanda is Home to Africa's Cleanest City
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda and the country’s largest city, is the cleanest city in Africa. Often described as “spotless,” one would be hard-pressed to find a single piece of trash on the streets of Kigali.
2. Rwanda Has More Women in Politics Than Any Other Country
Women comprise 64 percent of the lower house of Rwanda’s parliament, more than any other country in the world. (In the U.S. House of Representatives, only 19% of the seats are held by women.)
President Paul Kagame, who has led Rwanda since his army put an end to the genocide, is credited with building this progressive government. In 2003, Rwanda’s new constitution decreed that at least 30% of parliamentary seats must be held by women and that the education of girls would be prioritized.
President Kagame also called for the appointment of women to important leadership roles. Rwanda embraced the new policies, far surpassing the mandatory requirements. Today, Rwanda remains a gender inclusive government with women at the forefront of politics.
3. Rwanda is an Extremely Biodiverse Country
Despite being the smallest country in East Africa, Rwanda is home to several diverse ecosystems. In the south you can find the lush rainforests of Nyungwe National Park, one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, and to the east, Akagera National Park, a large protected wetland serving as Rwanda’s only refuge for savannah species.
From its 23 sparkling blue lakes and rivers to the beautiful towering Virunga Mountains and their eight volcanoes, Rwanda has it all.
These ecosystems are rich with a variety of indigenous flora and fauna, and are home to various wildlife, including Africa’s Big Five, numerous primate species, and hundreds of species of birds.
4. Rwanda is Considered the Safest Country in Africa
Biased media portrayals mislead many people into thinking Africa is an unsafe continent. However, smart travelers know that caution is to be exercised anywhere, and not to rule out a particular destination without first conducting your own research.
Rwanda is more than just the location of a harrowing 1994 genocide. Since the end of the Rwandan Civil War, the country has worked hard to rebuild and has been successful in establishing stability.
Today, Rwanda is considered the safest country in Africa and one of the safest nations in the world. A secure country with low crime rates, Rwanda is full of warm, welcoming, and hospitable people.
5. Tourism in Rwanda is on the Rise
In addition to the export of tea and coffee, tourism has become integral to Rwanda’s economic growth. It has now become one of Rwanda’s fastest-growing industries as the country’s popularity as a travel destination increases.
The industry is a $400 million a year earner and has led to the creation of 90,000 jobs. Visiting Rwanda is easy, and over the past few years, various luxury accommodations have sprung up, appealing to international tourists.
Many people come to Rwanda for the gorilla trekking and wildlife safaris, but end up returning for the impeccable hospitality and unique cultural experience.
Related: The Black Expat: ‘Making The Decision To Call Rwanda Home Was Easy‘