Twenty-eight years after the 1994 Tutsi genocide, Rwanda recovered and made tremendous strides that would inspire other African countries to change the narrative that Africans are poor and disorganized.
Ghanaian social entrepreneur and philanthropist Matthew Mensah says African countries have a lot to learn from Rwanda when it comes to getting things done and positioning themselves on the global map.
Mensah, who is also Ghana’s ambassador for tourism, arts and culture and founder of the agency Rebranding Africa, says Rwanda has set the example of a country trying to buck the narrative that African countries are not only impoverished but also chaotic .
The acclaimed PR expert, who was recently in Rwanda to work with the Visit Rwanda brand, said in an interview with The new timethat while there are many things that can be attributed to Rwanda’s success, its greatest asset is its people.
“I’m still really blown away by how friendly and nice people are,” Mensah says, adding that there are certain things that make a good impression besides hospitality.
“Personally, I think this country is probably the safest country I’ve ever been to and I’m not trying to badmouth other countries, but it’s no secret,” Mensah said, citing several African countries where the Crime is widespread.
He said that if you want to buy something like “Akabanga” in Rwanda, you can walk the streets alone, feel safe and people are very helpful and friendly.
Mensah says it gives a good sense of the country and its people and is something other African countries can emulate and shed the negative connotations used to define them.
As an advocate for gender-based violence (GBV), he believes Rwanda has done all the right things to make women and girls feel protected.
Mensah, who was a recent judge at the Miss Rwanda 2022 final, said that as a passionate tourism ambassador, Rwanda has a lot to offer to the world, from nature and greenery to landscapes and tourist attractions, all of which offer good facilities.
He attributes Rwanda’s progress to good leadership that puts the country’s interests first.
“It just goes to show that if you have a very good leader with a really strong vision, you can actually change. If you drive around Kigali, you can see how clean it is everywhere.”
“There is absolutely no reason why the rest of the continent’s countries shouldn’t be like Rwanda. We all know the story of Rwanda, what happened here in 1994, but the country was able to pull away from that,” Mensah said, adding that Rwanda can be a role model for other African countries that have tried to make things work more than 50 years.
unity and good governance
Mensah said that today Rwanda stands out as a unified country where people have a strong common stance on the country’s development and are taking it forward step by step.
The entrepreneur said that 1994 was a very sad time because of the genocide, but Rwandans were able to get out of it and become such a united, strong country.
“There is so much harmony and respect around each other. We can all learn from that on the continent and in the world,” he added, adding that good governance is one of the most important aspects that made this possible.
He said his work involved dealing with a range of government agencies and private sector actors, but he observed that both government and the private sector work with a common goal of developing the country for the better.
“When you talk to people here, they have the same message and passion, whether it’s an individual or an institution. They all work for the good of Rwanda
“President Kagame has really shown us that with good leadership and good vision, we can make changes that benefit everyone else,” he said, adding that he takes it upon himself to show people the benefits whenever they ask him about investment opportunities.
He indicated that he intends to organize youth empowerment events and bring together young people from different parts of the continent.
“Rwanda is one of the best places to host an event like this because the government understands this and is actively involved in improving the situation of youth through education,” says Mensah.
He pointed out that he was interested in coming to Rwanda from a friend and when he did, he realized that the country was doing most for the transformation and he felt the need to work through several projects in the lifestyle – and to make his own contribution to the entertainment industry he is currently working on.
Miss Rwanda experience
Mensah, who was a judge on Miss Rwanda 2022, said he was really impressed with the organisation, production and the quality of the event in general, but was particularly intrigued by the cultural presentation.
“The cultural performance really gave me goosebumps. It was really brilliant and for me as an ambassador for tourism, arts and culture it was even more impressive,” he said, adding that the performance of the finalists touched his heart and that of many.
“When they did the performance, it showed that people really love their traditions and their culture and are really proud of it, which for me was quite amazing to be able to have this experience,” he said.
Mensah said the performances by Bruce Melodie and Nel Ngabo proved that Rwandan music has evolved and is now ready for the international market.
He said part of his projects in Rwanda include working on a series of collaborations between Rwandan artists and renowned African artists to promote Rwandan music on a continental and global scale.