Guest Blog Post: Rwanda in Review – The Sustainable Revolution Has Begun

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Guest Blog Post: Rwanda in Review – The Sustainable Revolution Has Begun

Over the past two decades, Rwanda has made outstanding progress, transforming from a torn nation to one of the safest and cleanest countries in Africa, progressing well on an economic front as well (recording 6.5% GDP growth last year).In the wake of unprecedented challenges, the Rwandan people found a way to unite and rebuild their country – and with phenomenal success.

Let me be clear from the outset, I am not about to compare the current challenge of expensive and inefficient energy faced by African real estate with the horrific genocide that took place in 1994 in Rwanda. What I will do though, is draw parallels between the progress Rwanda has made in just over 20 years, and the way we should be approaching the fight to replace high cost, environmentally destructive energy with sustainable solutions. It fits perfectly then, that for the first time in history, the topic of ‘sustainable buildings’ made it onto the agenda of the Africa Hotel Investment Forumlast week in Kigali, Rwanda. Energy has been on the AHIF agenda previously, indeed repeatedly so, but always in the context of ‘a major problem without a solution’. Now, with the introduction of a sustainable buildings workshop and panel it is clear that the hotel industry, and indeed the wider real estate industry, is starting to pay attention to the clean energy market, ready to be exploited for all it’s worth.

Until this point, the only alternative real estate owners and developers have had to terrible grid supply is expensive and inefficient diesel generators. As clean energy solutions approach grid parity, they become truly attractive for real estate; they are not just an environmentally efficient option but a cost efficient answer to energy challenges. The workshop at AHIF, organized by Sustainable Buildings Africa Conference & Exhibition (S.B.A.C.E) in partnership with the IFC, enabled a group discussion focusing on the technologies available, ranging from major renewable energy projects to energy efficiency methodologies, water management systems, and even particular materials that can be used in the building process.

So what are the next steps for the industry? And what happened to that concept of drawing parallels between Rwanda’s progress and clean energy’s future?

As discussed in the previous article written by AES for E-nable+, education continues to play a central role. But real change also now requires bold leadership from the top – these individuals must recognize the financial and environmental savings to be made, and take action. With that comes collective action from the rest. The perfect example of this; On the last Saturday of every month in Kigali, traffic is stopped for three hours in the morning, and the city comes together to tidy up. This day is called umunsi w’umuganda (contribution made by the community) and all able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 65 are required by law to participate. Kigali is now one of the cleanest cities in Africa owing to strong leadership and collective action.

Continuing the Rwandan theme, what I learned from my time in Kigali is that all the local people are very proud. They are proud to see their economy growing; proud to keep their city and country clean and safe. In the future, we need real estate owners, investors and architects the like to feel proud about being involved in sustainable projects. These characters could, should and will take action and lead their market forward.

Rwanda had to take a hard line 20 years ago, cutting out irrelevant policies and ridiculous promises, instead employing achievable and measurable goals for the economy and society. The real estate market needs to do the same, replacing pathetic CSR policies only created to tick a box, with real investment and real action. Just as Rwanda now enjoys peace and continues to increase prosperity, the real estate market will reap the benefits in cost saving, and the human race will continue to stand tall in the fight to be sustainable.


If you are interested in the African energy scene, particularly clean energy for real estate, please get in touch with the author of this week’s blog, James Winsbury and hear more about the inaugural Sustainable Buildings Africa Conference & Exhibition in 2017. Through his role as Research and Programme Manager, James has spoken directly with the key players in both the energy and the real estate market throughout Africa.
Tel: (+44)7592797827