Written by Matt Pelton (MIR 2014-15), the former program director of the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship at the African Leadership Network
In November 2014, the African Leadership Network (ALN)  hosted its fifth annual gathering in Kigali to celebrate and recognize Rwanda’s reconciliation and growth since the tragic genocide. 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi minority. A country divided due to its colonial legacy, ongoing tension between the Hutu and Tutsi had existed in Rwanda since a Hutu-led revolt brought independence from the Belgians in 1962. Today, the Land of a Thousand Hills boasts new state-of-the-art facilities, scores of tourists each year, some of the continent’s strongest education and healthcare programs, and a very conducive environment for entrepreneurs and foreign investors. While greater income equality and universal access to social services still must be achieved, the nation receives praises from around the world for its economic growth, social inclusion, and good governance.
ALN’s 2014 event convened 300 of its influential members and partners from across Africa and abroad. The group celebrated Rwanda’s impressive growth and aimed to learn leadership lessons from the public sector. His Excellency President Paul Kagame participated in an insightful dialogue on his personal journey and approach to leadership, as did other public sector leaders such as Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda Development Board CEO Francis Gatare, former Zimbabwean Minister of Industry & International Trade Nkosona Moyo, and Tanzanian presidential candidate January Makamba. Sessions addressed the future of African cities, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, innovation in education models, inclusive financial services and technology, how to build an effective public sector, foreign policy as a driver of prosperity,and investment opportunities in Rwanda. Aligned with Rwanda’s focus on entrepreneurship and private sector growth, the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship  gala dinner honored the most innovative and inspiring entrepreneurs from across the continent. In addition, ALN officially launched its Ventures program , which is now sponsoring its inaugural class of entrepreneurs with funding, mentorship, and strategic support.
While Rwanda has made significant progress through its reconciliation and economic resurgence, arguments for greater political freedoms and participation still exist. As Amartya Sen  presented in Development as Freedom, some could argue that true development is only achieved with the presence of political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security. Thus, some critics of Rwanda question whether the country should in fact be considered a bright story of governance and growth for the continent. Conversely, the global economic crisis showed us that the means to development need not always replicate the “Washington Consensus” of the West. The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report  illustrates that Rwanda’s life expectancy, expected years of schooling, and GDP per capita (PPP) have improved drastically since 1980. Accordingly, such steady socio-economic improvements and the reconciliation of a divided country warrant recognition for the progress achieved by a government that inherited a dismal situation in the wake of the genocide.
2015 IE Africa Day
On this Thursday, an accomplished set of thought leaders from across Africa and Europe will convene with the IE community to share their insights and inspiring stories at the 2015 IE Africa Day , which is organized and hosted by the student-led Africa Club of IE Business School and IE University. This year’s theme Africa’s moving: the momentum waits for no one will highlight the diverse opportunities for global impact that the African continent can leverage through entrepreneurship, innovation, and its diverse culture and resources. ALN members Nuradin Osman , Jonathan Tawiah , and Isaac Oboth will be featured speakers at Africa Day, and ALN CEO Isaac Kwaku Fokuo, Jr . will hold seminars on China-Africa relations and entrepreneurship throughout the week. In addition, Spanish experts Rafael Gomez-Jordana Moya of Banco Santander , Grace Obado of Africa 2.0 , and representatives from African embassies will provide local perspectives on how Spain and Africa can build stronger ties economically and politically.
As Rwanda’s case demonstrates, despite its tragic past and present-day critics, much of the African continent has laid the foundation for, and is working for, continued socio-economic progress and more inclusive growth. On Thursday 12th March, IE Africa Day aims to raise the profile of these trends on IE’s campus and in the greater Spanish community.