How Good Is Your Global Eyesight?

Vision 2020. What pops to mind when you see that phrase? Would your first thought be something to do with eye testing? Or perhaps Tokyo’s plan for hosting the next summer Olympics?

What if I told you that “Vision 2020” is long-term government initiative to develop Rwanda into a middle-income, knowledge-based economy by the year 2020? Would you be surprised to learn that this tiny nation has made remarkable gains toward this goal, lifting millions out of poverty and doubling Rwandans’ life expectancy?

In the Global Mobility industry, there is always something new to know:  New rules or trends to understand. New strategies and practices to adopt and adapt. And of course, new countries in which to set up business or settle assignees.

For many people, mention of Rwanda conjures an association with its atrocious genocide in 1994. But to look deeper is to appreciate a country that rescued itself and set down a path of emotional and economic recovery.
In Patricia Crisafulli’s and Andrea Redmond’s book Rwanda Inc., the authors describe “how a devastated nation became an economic model for the developing world.” They write of President Paul Kagame’s CEO-like vision and mentality, and how he has led the nation with leadership akin to those of top business executives.
One area of particular success has been health care. Rwanda saw an 80% decrease in deaths from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in the early 2000’s, according to Neal Emery in The Atlantic’sRwanda’s Historic Health Recovery: What the U.S. Might Learn.
Rwandans have worked hard to put their past behind them. But at the same time, that past is indelible and memorialized. Newcomers from developed countries traveling to the capital city of Kigali will notice its continued challenges.  The power grid is insufficient, leading to occasional power outages. There is no rail network. The road system – while extensive – is largely unpaved, even around the capital.
A family friend just returned from a week-long service project in Cybatanzit. This rural community outside Kigali receives no infrastructure funding and Project Blessing has taken on the task of building a school there. Our friend Suzanne has seen much progress since her first trip in 2009, and has forged friendships with warm, friendly, spirited Rwandans. She also sees the work yet to be done.
For anyone going to Rwanda for the first time, it seems that keeping two things in mind will be useful: One is the state of complete devastation the country found itself in not so very long ago. The other is just how far it’s come toward achieving what many of us take for granted.
Written by Ellen Harris, GMS – International Product Director, Living Abroad


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