Arkansas-Rwanda scholars conference

Washington, DC -January 6, 2016
More than 100 Rwandan Presidential Scholars, Bridge2Rwanda Scholars, and private Rwandan students with ties to Arkansas gathered for a two-day conference whose focus was to connect these students to governmental, nonprofit, private sector, and academic leaders in order to assist them in strategizing on how they can contribute to the development of Rwanda upon the completion of their studies here in the U.S.

The conference which was held at the Heifer International headquarters and Clinton School in Little Rock Arkansas aimed at “providing students with a concrete action plan as they prepare to return to Rwanda,” said Dr. Gess of Hendrix College. Among the companies and educational programs and institutions that were represented was Westrock Coffee, Heifer International, Winrock International, Hendrix College, Bridge2Rwanda and The Clinton School.

Scholars greatly benefited from hearing from CEOs and high level representatives of all of these institutions. Students also benefited from hearing from two ministers from Rwanda, Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Hon. Papias Musafiri, and Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana.

A diverse group of speakers ranging from the private sector to government offered students insight on entrepreneurship and the need of contributing back home with the knowledge earned. In her opening presentation, Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana expressed her appreciation for the partnerships that have benefited Rwanda through different institutions in Arkansas. She highlighted the importance of building lasting relationships with educational institutions and business in order to be able to continue the discussion and sustain innovative entrepreneurial relations upon graduating. “Rwanda believes that education is a cornerstone for our development,” she said.

Yves Iradukunda is a young Rwandan who also completed his studies in the U.S. and is currently actively contributing to the development of Rwanda. He said “We are inspired by the vision and leadership of the Government of Rwanda and for sharing this with scholars.” A panel of Rwandan students who have made successful transition to Rwanda after graduating sat on a panel that engaged scholars on how they went about using their knowledge to engage in Rwanda in innovative ways that brought added value to the country’s development. Jimmy Shyaka, Toussaint Kaneza, Alain Shyaka, and Yves Iradukunda were on the panel.

During break-out sessions, which were facilitated by faculty members, students had the opportunity to raise pertinent questions about the process of returning home and being a valuable asset to the growing economy of Rwanda. Among the topics discussed were the question of tools that the Government of Rwanda provides to help new graduates with innovative ideas.

Minister of Education, Hon. Papias Musafiri encouraged students to remain informed on current projects and policies that the Government of Rwanda is putting in place to make Rwanda a conducive environment for innovative ideas. The Minister of Youth and ICT who was also present, Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana called the students to pay attention to industries that are rapidly growing in Rwanda such as ICT. He called those who are studying in that field to be part of improving access to ICTs in Rwanda, especially in broadband.
For the students, this successful conference ended with a renewed commitment to invest acquired knowledge back home to Rwanda.