Photograph — decentral

Coupled with a vibrant economy, one globally regarded as the fastest-rising in Africa, Rwanda is also gaining a reputation for leading the STEM charge on the continent.

Students of Carnegie Mellon University, an international university based in Pittsburgh, with over a dozen degree-awarding locations in six continents, said they were impressed with Rwanda’s vision of advancing science and technology.

Photo Credit: Ktpress (http://ktpress.rw/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/IMG_20190530_211018.jpg)

Visiting Rwanda under a student-led community service initiative, Project Rwanda, in its seventh consignment, to offer a two-week training program in primary schools, one of the students, Andrew Edward, sent a hopeful tweet to the Rwandan president. The tweet read, in part, “we would love to meet with you and discuss your vision for education in Rwanda and how we can contribute.”   

They were obliged by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, who met them at Village Urugwiro, his office complex in the Kacyiru area of Kigali, the capital. Education minister Dr Eugene Mutimara said the president discussed Rwanda’s science and technology aspirations with the students, and the “role they can play in developing Rwanda and Africa through what they study.”   

Thanking top government officials for their time, the students said they found the country’s vision for a technology-based economy “really inspiring.”

Carnegie Mellon University operates campuses in six continents, with its Rwanda campus the only one in Africa. Yesterday, it graduated fifty-one students, who earned degrees in Master of Science in Information Technology, or Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering. The fresh graduates representing Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda, will join CMU’s 100-strong alumni.

Jonathan Cagan, the interim dean of CMU Engineering called it their “largest class” and “most diverse group,” remarking on the promise of the graduates’ capacity to strengthen Africa’s entrepreneurship and technological development.

Established in 2011, CMU Rwanda has produced five graduate classes of 145 students, with Rwanda claiming a lion share of 104. It offers a 10-16 month Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a 16-20 month Master of Science in Information and Technology.

CMU Africa hopes to move to its newly finished $10 million campuses in Kigali Innovation City sometimes this month. It’ll share the city with some faculties of the University of Rwanda, African Leadership University, and African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, increasing the country’s attraction for academic tourism.

Earlier this year, it moved up to second in the rankings for most popular destinations for international conferences and events. It also placed second for Africa on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, which tracks business efficiency worldwide.  

Rwanda is also getting help from diplomatic quarters, rooted in the US college system. Neysa Sanghavi, a 19-year old Indian student at the University of California, is a one-woman force working to change foreign perceptions about Rwanda.  

Appointed in 2017 by Rwanda’s High Commissioner to India, Edward Rwamucyo, as Brand Ambassador for Rwanda in India, Sanghavi is invested in changing the narrative around Rwanda abroad. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi credits his 2018 visit to Rwanda to Sanghavi’s testimony of what she had seen in Rwanda, saying he wanted to experience Rwanda’s “beauty and reestablishment.”

Sanghavi’s mission: “I would like to use this voluntary high profile designation to promote and increase awareness on Rwanda’s story on economic growth, social transformation, the resilience of the Rwandan genocide survivors, and work towards enhancing the people-people connection between Rwanda and India.”

Sanghavi has plans to create a website which will serve as the primary lens through which the world can see the Rwanda she sees. She has also published Rwanda on the Rise, a book about her experience in Rwanda.

It’s a fabulous time to be Rwandan.  

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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