Code for Good
By harnessing the power of technology, three young men in Rwanda have set out to empower other Rwandan youths. Ildephonse Mungwarakarama, Theogene Niyonsenga and Jerome Habimana launched the Code for Good program to teach Rwandan students, the skills they need for app development for free.

The three entrepreneurs began their partnership in 2014 when they launched House of Technology, a company that provides its clients with web-based solutions ranging from website design to internet portal management. Code for Good is their most recent initiative.

The Code for Good program is aimed at educating youth throughout Rwanda about app development, reaching college students and those that have already graduated from universities, as well as those still in high school and under the age of 18.

For those that may be unemployed after college, Mungwarakarama, Niyonsenga and Habimana hope to provide the opportunity to learn valuable skills and gain work experience. Regardless of age or schooling, the program prepares students to meet industry standards and to enter the workforce, all the while improving academic performance.

Training is completed within the community by volunteers who meet with students after they have registered to complete the program. Once students have completed their training, they are equipped with the skills needed to teach these same skills to others as well as to apply what they have learned to future projects.

This program could be especially impactful in a country where poverty is such a prevalent issue. Of Rwanda’s nearly 13 million people, 62 percent live in poverty. In recent years, there has been an indication of a positive trend away from poverty, as the Rwandan economy has grown rapidly and the poverty rate has dropped. Programs like Code for Good will help to continue this trend.

With organizations like Code for Good that are actively engaged in building Rwanda’s future, it seems as if much can be done to alleviate poverty in Rwanda. By capitalizing on the high-tech world, young Rwandans can enact powerful change within their country.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

Help People in RwandaFor more than twenty years, Rwanda has been a country in the midst of healing from its devastating mass genocide of 1994, a horrific episode in which Rwanda’s government sponsored the murder of approximately 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Hutu civilians carried out the majority of the attacks.

With this in mind, it is hard to imagine how to help people in Rwanda. And yet, the country has made remarkable progress in the years following the genocide, though there is still lots of work to be done. Here are five solutions that address how to help people in Rwanda:

  1. Support education
    With two out of three Rwandan citizens under the age of 25, the country has turned its attention and its hopes to children still in school. Schools in Rwanda are making a clear effort to discourage divisive ethnic labels; rather than Hutu or Tutsi, students are taught to identify themselves and others as Rwandans, all working toward a greater unity. There are many ways to support this effort, such as sponsoring a student through Foundation Rwanda or supporting one of the many organizations — Rwanda Aid, Aid for Africa and the Rwanda Orphans Project, to name a few — whose goal it is to further education in Rwanda.
  2. Support and encourage skilled labor
    While more Rwandan children are in school than ever before, there is a 40 percent unemployment rate among young people, and not enough Rwandans have skills necessary for the labor market. Part of this is because, while school attendance is very good, the quality of the schooling still needs improvement. One way to help is to support USAID’s work in Rwanda. USAID has been part of an effort to better students’ schooling and chances of finding a good job. Since 2011, USAID has helped equip 20,000 students with skills necessary to be employed, and 60 percent of those students have since gained new or better employment.
  3. Buy Rwandan coffee and tea
    One of the main sources of income for Rwanda comes from its production of coffee and tea. Rwandan coffee, apart from benefiting its economy, is known for its delicately sweet, citrusy and delicious flavor, and Rwandan tea, whether green or black, is known for producing a bold, rich flavor.
  4. Support survivors of genocide, especially those living with HIV/AIDS
    The genocide in 1994 also came alongside a horrifically large number of rapes, which resulted in many people in Rwanda becoming infected with HIV and AIDS. These people, along with the many, many others suffering from the trauma of the genocide, were and continue to be in need of both physical and mental help. Thankfully, many organizations continue to help people in Rwanda heal, such as Rwanda Gift for Life and the SURF Survivors Fund.
  5. Visit Rwanda
    While being known in recent history mainly for its horrors, Rwanda is also home to breathtaking areas of natural beauty. Another one of Rwanda’s main sources of income is its tourist trade, as people from around the world come to see the country’s dense rainforests and the 1,000 mountain gorillas, some of the last surviving on Earth, that live within them.

This is just a brief exploration of how to help people in Rwanda move past a painful part of their history. While Rwandans are grateful for any help, it has also become increasingly important that Rwanda stand on its own two feet, with the knowledge in mind that it cannot survive on aid forever. In 2012, the Rwandan government launched a fund to attract investments into the country in the hopes of generating more internal revenue, and gave the fund a firmly hopeful name: Agaciro, which means “dignity.”

Audrey Palzkill

Causes of Poverty in Rwanda
Rwanda is working its way out of poverty, but what are the causes of poverty in Rwanda? The country was devastated in 1993 by a genocide that took the lives of more than 800,000 people in a population of 7.7 million. The war wreaked havoc on the country and contributed to the causes of poverty in Rwanda.

It is necessary to take a look at Rwanda from a historical perspective to understand the causes of poverty in Rwanda in the twenty-first century. The country was under German colonial rule beginning in the late nineteenth century, which disrupted a potentially prosperous path into the modern era. Rwanda faced partition in 1910. Loss of land to surrounding countries caused Rwanda to lose access to valuable natural resources. Belgium ruled Rwanda after World War I until its independence in 1962.

It was during this era that ethnic conflict developed between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the two largest tribes in Rwanda. The ethnic strife flared up throughout the 20th century. It all culminated in 1993 when the Hutus killed more than 800,000 people in 100 days.

The country was left devastated. Schools closed in 1993, and 75% of the teachers in Rwanda died in the conflict, fled the country or landed in jail on charges of genocide. The country’s infrastructure crumbled. A new government took control, but Rwanda was desperately poor, and all the above factors contributed to poverty in Rwanda.

Despite having few natural resources, Rwanda exceeded 8% economic growth for the past decade under the leadership of its president Paul Kagame, who took control in 1994. If re-elected for a third term, he will serve as president until 2024. Rwanda’s goal is to be a middle-income nation by 2020 by moving from an agricultural economy to a knowledge and service economy. Ninety percent of the country still works in agriculture, but Rwanda is today one of the leading tea producers in the world. The foreign currency derived from tea exports helps to build schools and infrastructure.

By the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, more than a million people were no longer in poverty, the percentage of children dying before they were five years old was half of what it was, and the number of children enrolled in school by seven years old was almost 100 percent. More than 90% of the country has health insurance, and tourism is now one of the leading sources of revenue.

There are numerous causes of poverty in Rwanda that date back more than 100 years. But there is cause for optimism in a country that can boast that it is one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa.

Jene Cates

Despite the difficulties of the past, including the tragedy of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, human rights in Rwanda have gained major positive momentum, with improvements in education, public health, and the economy.

Regarded as the “ultimate turnaround” country by corporate consultants and authors of “Rwanda Inc”, Andrea Redmond and Patricia Crisafulli, the recent successes of the nation have also been praised by Bill Clinton and the World Bank.

Former president of the World Bank Robert Zoellick deemed Rwanda one of the most promising countries in Africa, The World Bank website states, “Rwanda has achieved impressive development progress since the 1994 genocide and civil war. It is now consolidating gains in social development and accelerating growth while ensuring that they are broadly shared to mitigate risks to eroding the country’s hard-won political and social stability.”

Rwanda’s progress serves as an example of the benefits of investing in foreign aid, as the major improvements within the country have been made possible through aid which accounted for 20% of the country’s gross national income in 2011.

In terms of human rights in Rwanda, poverty rates within the country have dropped from 56.7% in 2005 to 39% in 2014. There has also been a significant increase in public health, as infant mortality has plummeted from 120 deaths per 1,000 live births to fewer than 40 currently. In 2012, deaths of under-fives had also fallen to 55 from the 230 per 1,000 live births in 1998.

The major successes in public health are due to the fact that, according to the World Bank, Rwanda has spent 24% of total government expenditure on health and, starting this year, 22% on education.

With a larger percentage of the total national budget focusing on increasing human rights in Rwanda through education, the country now holds the highest elementary school rate within Africa. The female enrollment rate stands at an empowering 98%, with their male counterparts standing close behind at 95%.

Human rights in Rwanda have also continued to develop for the women of the country. Post-genocide, the Rwandan government has placed a focus on prohibiting discrimination of any kind, banning ethnically-based political parties and prioritizing gender equality. While only 22% of parliamentarians worldwide are women, an astonishing 64% in Rwanda are parliamentarians. Women also make up more than 50% of the primary school teachers within the country.

Although Rwanda has seen major loss and civil unrest in the past, the country is moving forward in a dedication towards improving human rights, and, so far, has made tremendous strides.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr

Job-Training Programs in RwandaNew job-training programs in Rwanda are helping unemployed youth gain practical skills that allow them to find meaningful work. The Educational Development Center (EDC), a nonprofit founded by MIT researchers, recently announced its newest project, called “Huguka Dukore.” The five-year program offers job-skills training, provides internship opportunities and helps with job placement to 40,000 Rwandan youth.

For these young men and women, having skills that give them access to the job market is essential. In Rwanda, men and women under the age of 30 make up 60 percent of the country’s population. Many of them live on less than $1.75 a day, and the vast majority of them will never attend college. Additionally, those who go to work right out of high school find the job search extremely difficult.

USAID gave $20.5 million in funding for Huguka Dukore, which means “Get trained, let’s work” in Rwanda’s most widely-spoken language, Kinyarwanda. More than 200 government and business leaders support the initiative, hoping these new jobs will contribute to Rwanda’s growing economy.

Huguka Dukore follows on the heels of another EDC project in Rwanda, the Akazi Kanoze Youth Livelihoods Project, which has trained 21,000 Rwandan youth since its launch in 2009. Graduates became entrepreneurs, worked as certified caregivers for children or worked for a Rwandan company. Consequently, over half found employment within six months of completing their training.

Not all job-training programs in Rwanda are strictly technical; some have a creative side. For example, the nonprofit Indego Africa runs a vocational training program that teaches Rwandan women artisanal work. Started in February of 2016, the program is split into two main focuses: artisanal training and business instruction.

For three days a week over the course of six months, the class of 45 women learns sweetgrass basket weaving, banana-leaf weaving, beading and sewing. They craft hats, bags, baskets and stuffed animals designed by a team in New York City and sell them online. On the other two days, the women go to Kigali, the capital, to learn computer skills, bookkeeping and budgeting. Consequently, taining young women allows the artisan collectives to continue to grow, even as the founding members age.

This new focus on job-training programs in Rwanda is part of Rwanda’s Vision 2020, as outlined by the UNDP. The country aims to shift dependence away from farming, a traditionally low-income lifestyle. They plan on creating 2.2 million jobs in industry and services. Consequently, Rwanda is making sure that its youngest population of adults receives preparation to work in the business sector.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr

After the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi that killed 800,000 people, Rwanda has developed as a nation, improving its economy and decreasing its poverty rates. Rwanda Vision 2020 seeks to bolster Rwanda’s economic success by investing in a knowledge-based society.

World Economic Forum calls Rwanda “one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa.” The country increased its GDP growth to eight percent per year between 2001 and 2014. However, more than 60 percent of the population still lives on less than $1.25 a day.

Foreign assistance continues to expand Rwanda’s economy by investing in programs such as education, youth workforce development and the coffee sector. Rwanda benefited from foreign assistance since the genocide, with 30 to 40 percent of the nation’s budget coming from aid. The Rwandan government’s initiative, Rwanda Vision 2020, focuses on long-term goals to grow from an agricultural and subsistence economy to a diversified economy less dependent on foreign aid.

Struck by economic disadvantages, including high unemployment and fluctuating prices in coffee and tea exports, Rwanda hopes to transform into a middle-income country and knowledge-based society.

Rwanda Vision 2020 promotes macroeconomic stability and wealth creation to reduce dependency on aid and develop the private sector. The initiative will expand Rwanda’s domestic resource base and increase its exports and promote diversification in non-traditional exports.

Rwanda recognizes that it must improve education and health standards to provide an efficient and productive workforce. Entrepreneurship is crucial to Rwanda’s economic success. Instigating wealth, employment and educational services in sciences and technology will create a new class of entrepreneurs.

USAID partners with the Rwanda Education Board to enhance investments in training, teaching and materials to ensure that all children learn to read within their first years of schooling.

While Rwandan youth are challenged by poverty and social instability, they increase their chances for success through USAID’s programs for basic life skills and work training, which promote education and employment. As a result, over 20,000 youth are equipped with workforce skills, and over 60 percent of these youth gained new or better employment, including self-employment. More than 40 percent of the youth choose to pursue further schooling.

With a history of poverty, Rwanda’s economic success comes from embracing present challenges and adjusting its approach. Rwanda’s changing landscape promotes socio-economic stability and harnesses a new identity as it becomes a middle-income nation and knowledge-based society.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.

“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.

Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.

Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”

Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.

The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.

In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.

“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.

To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Rwanda is one of the smallest countries on the African continent. The country is known for many achievements such as being one of the only nations to have a majority of females in the national parliament and making solid progress in reducing political corruption. Despite these milestones, the country also faces rampant hunger. Most of the population of Rwanda lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for food. Here are five facts about hunger in Rwanda:

Top Facts about Poverty in Rwanda

  1. Low crop yield is not the only factor contributing to hunger in Rwanda. Lack of access to safe drinking water also leads to malnutrition. To help remedy this problem, the Japanese government donated more than $147,000 to two Rwandan anti-hunger organizations to be used to improve water sources.
  2. Rwanda, along with countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar, has made the most progress in alleviating hunger between the years 2000 and 2016. The Global Hunger Index estimates that hunger in Rwanda dropped from 58% to 27% during those years.
  3. Although hunger in Rwanda has been steadily decreasing, there is still plenty of work to be done. In 2015, the World Food Programme estimated that up to 40% of Rwandan children still do not receive the proper nutritional care they need to become successful later in life.
  4. Violent political conflicts in eastern Congo drive many Congolese people to take refuge within the borders of Rwanda, but often these refugees also face hunger in their new homes. In 2016, Congolese refugees in Rwanda complained that U.N. rations made them sick and many starved with few other choices in terms of food.
  5. Another factor that contributed to the presence of hunger in Rwanda was the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The violent conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi people of Rwanda interrupted many farmers’ planting and harvesting routines, causing thousands of people to go hungry.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

On October 14, 2016, an 18-second video of what looks to be a model airplane buzzes overhead against a sky slowly turning to dusk. A small red box ejects out of the back and begins a descent by paper parachute before landing at the front steps of a building in Rwanda’s Muhanga District. California-based company Zipline had just made its first delivery of blood by drone to improve health in Rwanda.

That day marked the beginning of Rwanda’s national drone delivery program which, over the next three years, is anticipated to save thousands of lives and drastically improve health in Rwanda.

The endeavor is a partnership between Zipline, the Rwandan government, the United Parcel Service (UPS) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of health in Rwanda by delivering important medical supplies to remote locations quickly. This partnership currently maintains a fleet of 15 drones, referred to as “Zips,” that are all designed, manufactured, operated and launched by the company itself. Zips have the capability to fly round trips of up to 150 km while carrying 1.5 kg of blood — despite windy and rainy weather conditions. Orders are placed by text messages. They are then received by the distribution center and sent out to be delivered via Zips launched from slingshot-style catapults. When the delivery is complete, the Zips simply return to their original locations without having to land at the drop site.

Chief Executive Officer Keller Rinaudo touts the company as a solution to the last-mile problem, which is when supplies are unable to be delivered from the city to more remote and rural locations. The reasons for the last-mile problem vary, but they usually involve a lack of adequate transportation for the rural poor. In addition, washed-out roads or difficult terrain like hills and valleys make it difficult to construct reliable roadways. Improving health in Rwanda has been slow due to these factors. In the medical field, the failure to connect a supplier to the end-users can be fatal.

In a November 2016 interview with Code Mobile, Rinaudo said, “When you need blood, you really need it. Your life is on the line and minutes are the difference between life and death. The challenge with blood is that it expires quickly. You have all different types, you don’t know what you’re going to need before you actually have a patient dying. What was happening was that…they have a patient that is dying, the doctor gets into a car, drives to a blood bank and drives four hours back. Obviously at that point usually the patient is either stable or dead.”

Approximately half of the blood that is currently delivered by road ends up being used for transfusions to women giving birth. When blood can be delivered quickly, doctors have access to more life-saving options for their emergency patients. In one case, a Zip only took five minutes to deliver a package of blood over a span of 33 miles.

For the beginning of the 2017 year, the plan is to expand Zipline into the Eastern half of Rwanda. This will keep their staff of skilled engineers, who have previously worked at organizations like Space X, NASA, Lockheed Martin and Google, incredibly busy. Justin Hamilton, the official spokesman for the company, described the future ambitions of the company: “There is a palpable sense of the promise this technology holds to save lives in the communities we serve. We look forward to expanding our efforts to serve the eastern half of Rwanda this year before expanding across Africa and the world.”

For Zipline, health in Rwanda is something that can be addressed with a talented staff and just a few catapults.

Tammy Hineline

Photo: Flickr

Life After Genocide In Rwanda
In spite of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which one million people were executed, the Rwandan community rallied to form an inclusive government, promote cultural acceptance and achieve economic prosperity.

As a product of colonial policy, the Rwandan government was constructed to advantage the minority (Tutsi) over the majority (Hutu) population. Disparities among the Rwandan population gave rise to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that was a catalyst for the Rwandan Civil War in the early 1990s.

On April 6, 1994, the Rwandan civil war escalated when the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi died in a plane crash that the Radio Television Livres Des Mille Collines (RTLM) attributed to the RPF. Following the crash, several weeks of incommensurate fighting ensued between the Hutu lead Gendarmerie (paramilitary) and military forces against the RPF and Tutsi citizens. Meanwhile, the international community withdrew and was absent during the peak of the genocide in Rwanda.

During the final weeks of summer, the RPF gained territory and Hutu soldiers fled to the DRC, bringing with it the fragile process of recovery.

Fortunately, the Rwandan people were exceptionally apt at a post-conflict building. The first step after the genocide in Rwanda, for the Rwandan people, was to ensure internal security, primarily executed through the criminal justice system, which was filled with nearly two million people.

The Rwandan national government, led by Paul Kugame, dealt with the prosecution of those who were alleged contributors to the genocide in Rwanda or perpetrators of rape. The remainder of suspects were subject to the newly created justice system, the Gacaca. The participatory system, run by citizens, was the crux of building a long-lasting trust among all segments of society.

Once internal security was reached, the Rwandan government focused on humanitarian relief. Five years afterward, Rwanda transformed its society into a beacon of hope and prosperity. Eliminating child mortality by 50 percent, near universal health care, increased freedom of expression and economic expansion of eight percent without the revenue from natural resources was primarily completed because of the direction of the Government and collect efforts of a Rwandan identity, rather than Hutu or Tutsi.

Although the rapid transformation was the product of national efforts, the role of international aid cannot be overstated. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), along with World Bank, and International Monetary Fund account for the bulk of international donations.

The international community has demonstrated it is observant and eager to grow as it has made earnest efforts to increase foreign aid to developing countries. Post-genocide in Rwanda is evidence of how international aid can be the missing component to eradicating barriers to development. In the words of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair “and at a time when many in western nations are questioning the use of aid budgets, we should look at Rwanda as an example of how to use aid well”.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr