Archive for the ‘Rwanda’ Category

Mountain Gorillas to be “baptized” in Rwanda

KIGALI – Twenty-two baby mountain gorillas will be “baptized” in a name-giving ceremony this month in Rwanda’s Volcans National Park.

Rica Rwigamba, the conservation and tourism director said the ceremony that is due to be held on June 18, will give names to twins born in February, a rare occurrence for an endangered species which counts fewer than 800 individuals. Rwanda has recorded only five twin mountain gorilla births over the past 40 years.

“Like every year, renowned personalities will be part of the ceremony,” Rwigamba said.

Mountain gorillas are Rwanda‘s main tourist attraction and accounted for 90 percent of tourism revenue in 2010.

According to a 2010 census, the total number of mountain gorillas has increased by a quarter over the past seven years to reach more than 780 individuals.

Two thirds of them are found in the Virunga massif, which straddles Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda has over 50% of the 780 mountain Gorillas left in the world.

Dr.Richard Sezibera is the new EAC Secretary General

The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State have appointed Ambassador Richard Sezibera from Rwanda as the new secretary General of the Community on a five-year term with effect from last week.

A communiqué issued at the end of the Heads of State summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week said Dr. Sezibera replaces Ambassador Juma Volter Mwapachu who completed his term of office on April 24, 2011.

Speaking after being sworn in, Dr Sezibera said that his focus will be to strengthen and bring the Community’s programmes to success. He said his main duties will be to push for the complete establishment of the East African common market and put it into practice.

“I expect the partner states to support me in ensuring the implementation of the Community programmes,” said Dr Sezibera.

He added that another duty will be to facilitate integration and make sure all the residents of the EAC area well informed and aware of the EAC programmes and activities.

On what EAC people should expect from him, the new secretary-general said his commitment to work for the Community was among the important issues that would move the Community’s development ahead.
“I am committed to work for the East African people, it makes me very proud and courageous,” said Dr Sezibera.

Until his new appointment, Dr Sezibera, (47), the youngest person to hold the top EAC post since the revival of the regional bloc in 1999 has been Rwanda’s health minister since October 2008. He has served in many capacities in the Rwandan government including Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Ambassador to the United States and Senior Adviser to the President where he worked on peace and security, conflict management and resolution, as well as regional integration issues.

He is the author of many university journals, mainly in the field of politics and international affairs, and has published numerous articles and interviews in major national, regional and international media houses including Voice of America, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post and Foreign Affairs magazine.

Dr. Sezibera holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree and practiced medicine for many years in Uganda and Rwanda. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.

Summit Chairman Pierre Nkurunziza told the new leaders that the mission is to lead the Community in its second decade of integration, with a calendar of great commitments because the peoples of the community have become very demanding, and require concrete results from the integration.

Hailing the choice of Sezibera, officials in the Rwandan Senate said the appointment was a sign that the EAC’s integration would be fast tracked.

“It’s great to have someone who has wide experience in politics; it’s good for Rwanda and the wider Community,” Senator Agnes Mukabaranga said. “Dr Sezibera has vast experience considering the posts he has held before. He is very innovative and industrious.”

Mukabaranga said Dr Sezibera has the spirit of innovation that is needed to fast track the region’s integration process. He becomes the fourth secretary-general of the EAC.

Single Tourist Visa for East Africa

By Arthur Baguma

The East African Community plans to start a single tourist visa for the region. The member states are discussing a protocol to create and market the region as a single tourist destination. Member states have started to coordinate their policies in the tourism industry and were establishing a frame work that would ensure equitable distribution of resources. In addition the partner states are establishing a common code of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators, standardized hotel classification and professional standards of agents in the industry.

A collective policy for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region is also in pipeline.

“They include harmonizing policies for the conservation of wildlife within and outside protected areas, exchanging information and adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, coordinating efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities,” information at the EAC states. The policy encourages joint use of training and research facilities and developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.

These developments are good news to East Africa tourism potential. From some of the world’s finest beaches to unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique Bwindi National Park home to some 340 mountain gorillas, the Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park are also preferred sites for tourists. In Kenya, the magnificent Maasai Mara reserve, among 48 wildlife parks and reserves, including the amazing Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks attract tourists both local and international. In Tanzania, the world famous Ngorongoro crater, the breath taking spectacular Serengeti plains, wildlife conservation areas and Mt. Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain are just the tip of the ice berg of what Tanzania can offer tourists.

Apart from the scenic attractions, East Africa has a lot more to offer. Hotel and beach tourism is at its peak. The region offers a large number of historical sites spread through the region. It boasts of interesting traditional culture, the Makonde sculptures and Akamba wood crafts as well as the Uganda Kingdoms, cultures and tradition. The Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania is the site of discoveries of the traces of early humanity.

There is, however potential for development, expansion and promotion of East African tourism, taking into account on going development of tourism and other potential of the lake Victoria basin. The world’s second largest fresh water body is shared by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The number of tourists to the East African region increased significantly between 1995 and 2002.In Tanzania the number increased from 285,000 to 550,000 while in Uganda it increased from 160,000 to 254,000. In Kenya there was a slight decline from 896,000 to 838,000 but the figures rose to one million in 2003.

Currently the three countries attract more than two million tourists. The figures indicate a vibrant trend of the tourist sector in East Africa. With joint promotion of the industry, tourist visits in East Africa are expected to double in the near future. In 2005, the East African Community countries launched the plan for joint tourism and wildlife development including joint marketing and promotion of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

Starting with the Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB), Berlin 2006, the tourist boards of East African countries participate in international trade fairs under one roof, the East African Village exhibition area. On going activities aim at developing both short and long term measures in the joint promotion and marketing of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

The plan and strategy for joint development and promotion of tourism envisages steady growth due to stable political and peaceful conditions prevailing in the region coupled with modernization of infrastructure, transport and communications facilities and links to all parts of the world by major world air lines and ocean cruises.

TOURISM: RWANDA’S MAJOR FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNER

By George Kalisa

Rwanda’s experience shows that the road to total liberation of the people has neither been straight nor smooth. Faced with the challenge of improving the lives of Rwandans in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, President Paul Kagame has met barriers ranging from political to economic ones, a high ranking government official has said. The international perception of the country was a major hold up to efforts to the liberation of the Rwandans from all forces that denied them human dignity. The world knew Rwanda for the genocide.

However Kagame and his government have triumphed over a sea of problems and Rwandans are already reaping the fruits of Kagame’s vision says Rosette Rugamba, the deputy chief executive officer of Rwanda Development Board in charge of Tourism and conservation.

The enterprising President looked at tourism as a potential sector in reconstructing the economy hence the re launch of the industry in 2003 on two definitive fronts – domestic and international tourism.

Domestic tourism focused on creating a culture of appreciation of the intrinsic value of and benefit of the sector to the economy while international tourism positioned Rwanda as a high end destination that put conservation and the environment first.

Rugamba adds that the security and stability in the country spur growing investment in the sector.

“The journey of the tourism sector in Rwanda started with the vision of our President six years ago. We are now harvesting six years of solid investment in destination tourism positioning, continuous improvements in the product backed by unwavering government support. With out doubt, the peace and security we enjoy in this country have been enabling factors,” Rugamba said.

Rugamba says although they have achieved many successes, Rwanda has not yet realized its dream tourism industry, adding that more innovations are needed.

“While we celebrate where we are today, we all believe that we still have a long way to go. The year on year growth is testimony that we are doing something right as a nation, “Rugamba said in an interview.

In 2003, only 16,000 visitors went to Rwanda compared to 980,577 in 2008. By June 2009, 440,000 visitors had been to the country. The increase in the number of visitors has meant increase in revenue and expansion of tourism infrastructure and tour operator agencies over the years.

Revenue upped from $8m in 2003 to $209m in 2008, while hotel rooms increased from 650 to 4,256.

Currently, Rwanda boasts of 189 hotels compared to just 30 in 2003. Besides being the number one foreign exchange earner for three consecutive years, the sectors competitive performance globally has improved ten fold the country’s image.

For the third time Rwanda was this year voted best African exhibitor at ITB Berlin, the worlds largest tourism trade fair. It was also voted among the “Top 10” tourism destinations in the world by Lonely Planet (2009), a travel guide in the United Kingdom. Early this year, Rwanda mountain gorilla trekking was ranked among the top green travel experiences in the world by the latest Rough Guide’s publication, 500 New Ways to see the World.

Rwanda’s gorilla experience was also listed in the publication Unforgettable journeys you must take before you die by Steve Watkins and Clare Jones as one of the 50 things you must do before you die.

The influx of international celebrities into the country is evident of growing tourism. These include; Jack Hanna (world’s conservation icon), CNN founder, Ted Turner and Catherine Crier.

Gorilla naming ceremony: it is one of the sector’s land mark innovations and one of the most recognized conservation events on the world tourism calendar.

Kwita Izina, as the gorilla naming ceremony is locally referred to, was launched in 2005 by Kagame. A total of 105 baby gorillas have been named since Kwita Izina ceremonies started. The annual ceremony has attracted high profile people locally and internationally, including Hollywood celebrities and world renowned conservationists. Kwita Izina is a celebration of successes in protecting the mountain gorilla and the environment it lives in.

Over $2m has been raised through the event and has been spent on supporting the communities that live outside the mountains of the Virungas.

Rugamba says Rwanda expects tourism revenues to hit $278m by 2012, adding that in the offing is a 10 year master plan, an initiation that will take the sector to greater heights.

New Products
: Central to Rwanda’s tourism strategy has been the development of new diverse products. They include avi tourism, Nyungwe National Park, Akagera Savannah Park and conference tourism.

In 2008, we launched the birding product (avi tourism) at the birding fair in UK, says Rugamba. Rwanda hosts over 700 bird species of which 44 are endemic to Rwanda. It is anticipated that birding will contribute 10% to Rwanda’s tourism receipts by 2010. The Nyungwe forest trails are offering nature hikes and an opportunity to see over 13 primate species, including chimpanzees.

By the end of the year, two lodges will be opened in Nyungwe and the canopy walk will be launched in the heart of the forest, the first of its kind in Eastern Africa.

The government is currently restocking and up grading accommodation facilities in Akagera National Park.

Rugamba discloses that a 20 seat leisure boat will be commissioned on Lake Kivu in October. The boat will enable tourists to visit islands on the lake.

Commenting on conference tourism, Rugamba said; “Our fastest growing product has to be conference tourism. Rwanda has become a much sought after destination for multi sectral, regional, continental and international conferences. In the first half of 2009, 189,857 (43%) of the visitors who came to Rwanda came for business purposes. In 2010, we hope to have set up a convention bureau to manage and coordinate conferences”.

Rugamba added, “With Rwanda becoming part of East Africa, we shall continue to work on promoting East Africa as a single destination and working on fast tracking of the East Africa single visa. The East Africa standards are already in place and Rwanda has started preparing the hotels for classification”.