By Olive Mukahirwa
From June 19 through June 26, Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali is hosting over 5,000 guests from 54 member countries of the Commonwealth member states in a biennial summit known as Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The guests include presidents, monarchs, and prime ministers, among other notables. Prince Charles will represent Queen Elizabeth II, the symbolic leader of the Commonwealth.
Rwanda has been preparing for this summit since 2019. Originally scheduled for 2020, it has been postponed twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each summit has a theme – this year’s theme is “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.”
The Honorable Clare Akamanzi, a Rwanda cabinet member and CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, shared with CNBC Africa her perception that Rwanda’s hosting of the event presents a huge opportunity for the country. Expectations of economic benefits run high.
“We expect to be looking for ways to form partnerships and deals, and will be looking for investments to see how to recover from the post pandemic effects,” she said.
Akamanzi said she and other Rwandese were looking forward to networking opportunities with global leaders in a wide range of fields. “We are going to have leaders in different sectors, we are going to have investors who have made differences, we are going to have big innovative companies that have really solved big problems, we are going to have academicians that have been researching and discussing areas that we think are very important for us… . And of course, just hosting the meeting here and having all these countries’ people here, we expect they will connect, the partnerships will be born here in Rwanda.”
Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in 2009, the last country to join the Anglophone member organization, and the second member country – after Mozambique – that was not colonized by the British.
Rwanda’s Minister for Youth, Rosemary Mbabazi, spoke to Rwanda Broadcasting Agency on Rwanda’s Minister for Youth, Rosemary Mbabazi, spoke to Rwanda Broadcasting Agency about the advantages of membership.
“Joining the organization has benefited Rwanda with a big market, which is about 2.5 billion people. Out of that, we have 60% young people below 30 years of age, that’s about 1.4 billion young people – that’s a huge market, but also huge manpower.”
Pre-CHOGM forums took place in Kigali ahead of the summit, including the Commonwealth Youth Forum, Women’s Forum, People’s Forum, and Business Forum. These meetings were held to inform heads of countries and governments about the issues particular to these sectors of the Commonwealth’s membership.
A number of events on the Kigali agenda are designed to entertain participants, including the Kigali Night Run, concerts in outdoor venues, exhibitions, and golf matches.