Delegates during last year's African Development Bank conference. Many of them were impressed with how Rwanda organised the continental meet. (File)

Delegates during last year?s African Development Bank conference. Many of them were impressed with how Rwanda organised the continental meet. (File)

The big announcement was made on Friday by Phillip Rosler, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the closing ceremony of this year?s summit held in Cape Town, South Africa.

?We will come back to follow-up on our projects at the next World Economic Forum on Africa summit which will take place in Rwanda,? Rosler announced on Friday afternoon before requesting Finance and Economic Planning Minister Claver Gatete to invite everyone to Kigali.

In 2014, the summit was held in Abuja, Nigeria; this year, in Cape Town, South Africa- two large cities in Africa?s largest economies, respectively. In Kigali, the forum will be coming to a smaller city but in one of the fastest growing economies on the continent.

Some of the major highlights at the just concluded summit included discussions on the intra-Africa trade and mobility of the people where participants said the biggest opportunity for Africa is its next generation; the youth who are self confident, dynamic, creative and always embracing new ideas.

?There?s no better place to take forward the discussion we?ve had here {Cape Town} than in Rwanda, a country that has demonstrated that Africa can rise even from the ashes having lost over a million of our most treasured resource, our people, during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, ? Gatete said.

Why Rwanda?

Gatete told an audience of over 1000 people in the Cape Town International Convention Centre?s Tshwane arena that WEF had made the right choice in choosing Rwanda as the next host because the country is a reflection of the potential on the African continent.

?Rwanda is testimony that Africa can aspire to attain a much brighter future with high standards of good governance, a safe place to live and to do business as well as politically stable under rule of law and zero tolerance to corruption,? Gatete said.

Gatete?s speech as next year?s host managed to excite hundreds who haven?t been here before with the minister highlighting some of the attractive features that makes Rwanda an ideal host.

?Rwanda has made it easier for people to visit the country through RwandAir which currently flies to 18 destinations in Africa making it easy to connect from almost any part of the continent  to come to Kigali, this in addition to other airlines that land in the country,? he said.

Gatete also told potential participants that Rwanda has made it possible for all Passport-holding Africans to receive visas on arrival in Kigali while others can apply for an entry permit online which they can receive within three days.

He also promised those that will come to next year?s summit in Kigali to count on having a good experience of the country?s beauty adding that those who have long held wishes of Mountain Gorilla tracking, it will be their chance to get it done.

Gatete ended his invitation speech on a lighter note when he assured next year?s participants that they needn?t carry winter clothes as Rwanda has no winter seasons but cautioned them against carrying plastic bags as they?re prohibited under law.

?So it?s my pleasure ladies and gentlemen to invite you all to the next World Economic Forum that will take place in Kigali,? Gatete said amidst applause.

In celebration, the Rwandan delegation at the summit hosted participants to a cocktail outside the Tshwane arena in Cape Town.

Chance to shine

Rwanda is likely to break records and set new ones when it hosts the forum after previous success with the African Development Bank annual meetings and the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) that took place in May and September last year, respectively.

The successful hosting of the two events last year tested and qualified Rwanda as a viable hub for important global meetings with the AfDB annual meetings alone attracting close to 5000 participants.

And during last Month?s AfDB meetings held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, many participants found themselves comparing the organizational levels of the two countries and their opinions were in favour of Rwanda.

?Rwanda meetings were flawlessly organized, from the transport to food, to internet; we had a very good time there,? a Nigerian participant at the AfDB annual meetings in Abidjan told Sunday Times.

There were many such opinions that exalted Rwanda?s organizational abilities, including an observation from a Zimbabwe Journalist with News Daily who said Rwanda used the opportunity to market itself to the world.

If the country indeed marketed itself last year then it successfully did so as participants who experienced the warm hospitality have since, indirectly, become voluntary goodwill ambassadors.

Last year, at the closing ceremony of WEDF, which attracted over 1000 participants from 73 countries, International Trade Centre?s Executive Director Arancha Gonz?lez said Rwanda?s organizational levels had set the bar so high for the next host.

Apart from marketing the country?s post-Genocide success story, next year?s WEF-Africa summit will also boost the country?s newly created programme of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE).

MICE is a very critical initiative for Rwanda?s tourism sector, a major foreign exchange earner; participants in events and meetings that take place in Rwanda normally spend and benefit the entire value chain including hotels, tour and travel as well as leisure spending.

According to RDB?s Department for Tourism and Conservation, total revenues based on MICE tourism in 2013 were US$49m and this is projected to triple to US$150m in 2015, which is 16 percent of all national export earnings and 34 percent of the overall tourism receipts

But as ?MICE-tourism? taken root in Rwanda, it also presents a challenge to the country?s tour operators, hotels, restaurants, professional conference organizers (PCO?s) and event managers who form part of the nationwide tourism value chain.

These are required to improve their product offering and customer care standards in order to leave a lasting memory on conference tourists.

At a time when the occupancy rate among Kigali hotels is declining, many hotels are facing periods of financial turbulence, some, like Alpha Palace, one of the first post-conflict establishments, are facing auction after failing to repay commercial bank loans.

Yet just opposite the struggling Alpha Palace at Remera is a new establishment, the Grand Legacy hotel, which claims five-star-status with official rates starting from US$136 per room.

On top of the buoyant hotel industry, government is also working around the clock to get Kigali Convention Centre completed with the recent appointment of a Turkish engineering firm to complete the project whose construction started in 2009 and should have been completed in 2012.

What?s WEF-Africa?

The WEF-Africa is an annual event organized by the Switzerland-Davos based World Economic Forum (WEF) and this year?s summit held under the theme, ?Re-imagining Africa?s future? marked 25 years since its inception and It attracted over 1200 participants from 75 countries.

The summit gathers policy makers, economists, scholars, leaders and private sector investors from across the globe to discuss solutions to some of the most pressing needs and challenges facing African economies.

By Kenneth Agutamba, The New Times

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