Rwanda is leading the way on green growth in Africa with its national target, Vision 2020, says the World Economic Forum.
Vision 2020 encompasses national sustainable development and climate resilience strategies to make Rwanda a developed, low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.
Rwanda was one of the first countries to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags and packaging in 2008 and plants millions of trees every year to protect the country’s forests, wetlands and rivers.
The plastic-bag ban has led to the country’s reputation as one of the cleanest countries on the continent and in 2008 its capital, Kigali, was declared by UN Habitat to be one of the cleanest cities in Africa.
The ban also created entrepreneurial opportunities, as Rwandans invested in alternative biodegradable packaging materials such as banana leaves, cloth, papers and papyrus.
The nation also embarked on a reforestation and tree-planting drive with a goal of increasing forest cover to 30% of the total land area by 2020.
New measures such as training schemes in forest management and agro-forestry have been implemented and helped earn the country a Future Policy Award from World Future in 2011.
In addition, Rwanda has committed to protecting and restoring degraded ecosystems such as lakes, natural forests and wetlands.
Nyungwe, Gishwati and Mukura forests have been upgraded into national parks and their varieties of flora and fauna restored, whilst their promotion within the tourism sector has led to a significant rise in income from foreign currency.
Meanwhile, the Rugezi wetland in northern Rwanda, which had dried up due to climate change and human activity, was rehabilitated in 2005 and led to the recovery of water levels, a boost for the fishing sector and increased production of hydropower in the lakes of Burera and Ruhondo.
Rwanda is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change and has responded by establishing the Green Fund to tackle the challenges in establishing a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, which it aims to achieve by 2050.
It is the largest investment fund of its kind in Africa, with US$100 million mobilised so far, and supports public and private projects realising transformative change and the building of a green economy.
Furthermore, policies, legislation and programmes have been brought in by the Rwandan government to tackle the causes and impact of climate change, and its Ministry of Natural Resources was recently accredited by the International Green Climate Fund, helping the country to attract more climate finance.
In addition, the Green Climate Fund off-grid solar project will drive solar use in Rwanda through a new investment fund, KawiSafi, which offers financial support to clean energy companies with expertise in household solar power.
All these measures, part of Vision 2020, set Rwanda well on the path to environmental and developmental sustainability and provide examples for other African countries to follow suit in responding to climate change and other environmental threats.
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