Lessons from Rwanda’s Booming MICE sector
Rwanda’s current population is about 13 million, and if no measures are taken, the population will be about 21.5 million by 2050 according to The New Times. (Frank, 2011) Twenty-six years ago, in 1994 the country went through a tragic experience of Genocide against the Tutsi. In a hundred days, over one million people lost their lives, leaving behind a million orphans, widows and widowers. Today everyone, both nationals and mostly foreigners, keep wondering about Rwanda’s progress in just a short period of time. Organizations like UNESCO have come to the conclusion that this is a Rwandan Miracle. In the recent piece that I published when the country was celebrating the liberation day in 2020, I was encouraging my fellow youth to be part of the solution. For the past over two decades, Rwanda has positioned its focus to the unity and reconciliation of Rwandans. This has mainly influenced the development pace of the entire sectors of the economy and people are now working together for a common purpose. Known as the land of thousand hills, Rwanda has continued to position itself as a tourist destination, hence their progress in maximizing potential possibilities in the sector. According to the International Congress and Convention Association, “the capital Kigali has been ranked the second most popular destination in Africa for hosting international conferences and events.” (RCB, 2020) We will be taking the progress of Rwanda under the MICE sector as a benchmark that could be used to motivate other African nations to exploit such a hidden opportunity that holds massive impact to the African community members.
Though Rwanda is thriving in the MICE sector they are concurrent challenges. In 2019, the MICE sector generated $56 million (about Rwf 53 billion), equivalent to 20 per cent of all tourism revenues. (TNT,2020) Though the country has emphasized more efforts to advance the development of the mice sector, Rwanda is a developing nation that still faces severe challenges.
Lack of enough quality Infrastructure ; Rwanda has established a ministry of Infrastructure to drive the change the country wants in this sector. The responsibilities of the ministry are to facilitate, promote and engage the private sector to invest in infrastructure; and also to ensure that the development of policies and strategies concerning national infrastructure is in line with regional integration and harmonization policies with the EAC. (Mininfra.gov.rw, 2018) These two responsibilities are clear guidance that Rwanda understands the importance of infrastructure in the development of a competitive private sector. (Visitrwanda.com, 2018) According to the Rwanda Development Board, the “Rwanda transport sector has greatly improved over the recent past. The transport sector system centres primarily on the road network, with over 1210 Km being paved. The target is to pave around 500Km by 2020.” The sector contributes about 7% of the GDP representing about 15% of total service delivery. Maintenance of the national paved road network is a high priority. Currently, 86% of roads are in good condition with a target to achieve 95% by 2017-2020. Projects in the pipeline that will require development in the near future include 80km ring-road in Kigali City, 208 km road and 140km roads in the secondary cities.” (Visitrwanda.com, 2020) Though the government is doing everything to position itself as the best, MICE destination the sector is still lagging behind in terms of Potential standard hotels and Roads that would accommodate a large number of visitors at the same time. The largest meeting that Kigali has hosted was The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) with 10000 delegates in a period of one week. (ICASA, 2019) Infrastructure development in Rwanda remains a process and a large opportunity for investors to maximise.
Lack of enough skilled labour force; Education is a primary human right and an integral tool to ensure that all Rwandese people – women and men, girls and boys – achieve their full potential. The production of human capital is one of the significant factors in achieving sustainable economic and social development. Education and training have been identified as an integral component of Rwanda’s development and poverty mitigation efforts. Throughout the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, schools, infrastructure and communities were destroyed. After the Jenocide everything was to start from scratch. The unity government initiated a policy of Education for all, where education they notified nine-year and twelve years basic education to facilitate children with no or little requirements like fees to not drop off the school at such an early age. According to UNICEF, “In sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda is one of the top-performing countries in education”. The issue of access to education is being handled well but Competence has been a challenge to most of the developing countries. The government of Rwanda has tried to tackle some of the related causes, the education sector is characterised of inconsistent frameworks, policies, incompetent graduates not meeting the job market needs, unqualified trainers, getting slow in the adoption of the current technology and all this has resulted into profit repatriation. Other challenges include lack of quality awareness of the sector’s impacts in the community, and this has been an obstacle for the MICE sector in Rwanda.
According to Rwanda Trade Report, “To become a MICE hub and thus a model and lighthouse for the entire region and at best across Africa, it was essential to establish and strengthen a convention bureau to organize and represent the Rwandan MICE sector. (Kigali, 2014) It helps in achieving the above-stated goal by providing “helpful and timesaving resources for meeting planners while promoting the services of the local MICE.” (RCB, 2020) This has facilitated the industry and the sector of tourism in the country. Positioning the MICE industry to be a people’s business.
Employment opportunities; According to the world bank study about Unemployment in Rwanda “Rwanda’s rapid growth has been accompanied by substantial job creation.” (World Bank,2020) The MICE sector has significantly contributed to this argument. Recently I was reflecting on some of the affiliates to this argument and I took an example of Tour du Rwanda, an annual cycling week-long event that brings together different people and teams across the world. The events pass almost in all parts of the country, over 300 people are employed casually in that week, tourists come to watch the event. All people stay at their respective hotels when they are waiting to start the next day. For Example according to the New Times Rwanda the Budget of 2020 edition, is over 740 Million to be dispatched in a period of one week. (Kamasa, 2020), this is just one example among the many that do create long and short term employment to both nationals and internationals.
Foreign Investments; The mice sector leaders have been invited in different world-class exhibitions to show the added value they are bringing to the MICE sector in the world and on the African continent. Through such forums and other MICE events that took place in Rwanda, some investors are pitched and so far different brands and industries have started operating in Rwanda, a good example is Volkswagen Rwanda manufacturing cars, Mara Phones, a proud African phone making factory and many more, they were all attracted to the achievements of Rwanda’s development, all purposefully designed by the government through such forums.
Despite many African countries’ recent strong growth results, the continent still faces a wide range of challenges ranging from unemployment and low investments to mention but the few. Strategically, African countries are called out to utilise such a hidden opportunity found in the MICE sector. The MICE industry in Rwanda has been an essential driver for the creation of jobs and has been helping to alleviate poverty. Below are some of the significant potential impacts of the MICE sector for many African economies.
Maximizing the Potential
Evidence exists that if well treated and handled, the MICE sector can be an accelerator to other many sectors of the economy. On the side of the country that is potentially investing in Mice, the industry will significantly Diversify the sources of Income/Revenue. The fact that you will be hosting a lot of events the whole ecosystem will be positively affected. Again I have noticed this in Rwanda in some of the entertainment concerts making the sector source of Happiness to the community members, taking an example of the Sauti Sol group, who have been invited in Rwanda several times to entertain the community. Throughout recent summits at the closing day, memorable concerts were held out of leisure and again boosting the growth of the entertainment sector at the same time. The MICE sector, if done wisely, grows the African Image. I had a privilege to intern with one of the summits that took place in Rwanda on the African Liberation Day, 2018, people across the world loved celebrating such a day on the Rwandan soil because they believed the country is challenging all the single stories associated with African continent This was boosted by how their experience went during their time around. Again MICE needs to be considered as an opportunity to provide space for our young talents. In many of the summits that take place we see Authors, singers and others showcasing their abilities and many of them it’s a turning point of their lives. For others, the Mice sectors possess an excellent opportunity to showcase African Cultures.
In conclusion, “as MICE business is a people’s business”, (RCB,2020) the on-going development of the MICE workforce and improvement of the service quality is of absolute significance. African countries should put more emphasis on raising: qualified staff, and design favourable policies needed for the enlargement of the MICE sector to maximise all the opportunities like ‘local labour market profits’ from MICE development. It also signifies that respective countries design a comprehensive MICE network between the private sector, related government agencies and educational institutions have to be established on strong and dedicated terms after understanding mutual interests. Again Rwanda is an excellent example to look up for in case you want to be a MICE hub yet also facing developmental challenges.
Photos: Courtesy Internet, flickr
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