Is Rwanda heading toward a green growth pathway?

In 2011, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) approved a bold and ambitious strategy titled “National Strategy for Climate Change and low Carbon Development”; commonly known as Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy (GGCRS). This strategy influenced the revised Vision 2020 in 2012 and was reflected in the second phase of the Rwandan Medium term strategy, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II, 2013-2018) whose implementation is being completed this year. One of the thematic areas of this strategy was “Green Growth” with special attention to green urbanization and green technologies. During the same period, Rwanda’s Environment and Climate Change Fund (FONERWA) was created and mandated to mobilize resources for the implementation of the GGCRS. Five years later, some encouraging green growth initiatives have been undertaken and awareness and mainstreaming of green growth into sectoral policies and strategies are progressing slowly with a clear orientation, building on the past positive initiatives in this area.

After the launch of GGCRS, the then Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) commissioned, in 2014, a study on the “Review of Environment and Natural Resources Sector Policies” to identify gaps in policies across various sectors of the economy: Agriculture, Disaster‐Management, Ecotourism, Energy, Health, Industry, Meteorology, Transport and Urbanization. The policy‐review exercise was intended to verify consistency of the existing sectoral policies related to environment and natural resources with the sustainability and inclusion themes of the “green economy” aspects and recommend required actions for greening sectoral policies. The report was used in “greening” different policies that were prepared during the EDPRS II implementation; including National Energy and Urbanization Policies that received Green Growth inputs from the then Ministry of Natural Resources.  In 2015, MINIRENA established a biannual high level Green Growth Dialogue that brings government institutions as well as development partners and reports on progress made, encountered challenges and way forward in the implementation of the Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. By 2017, the GoR took a decision to embark on a longer vision 2050 and its first mid-term strategy was titled the National Strategy for Transformation, phase 1, (NST1) built on three key thematic areas: Economic transformation; Social Transformation and Transformational Governance.

Rwandan strategic planning and implementation have been developing along with the global agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Paris Agreement on climate change and the Kigali Amendment for the Montreal Protocol, among others. These international policy frameworks are based on the spirit symbolized by the “Future we want”, a significant phrase underlined during Rio plus 20, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012. This phrase became a continuation of another equally famous one dubbed “Our Common Future” that became the title of the Brundtland Report on the World Commission on Environment and Development and, in 1987, defined Sustainable Development, considering intra and inter-generational equity in the way we manage and use our resources. The type of development that puts reasonable pressure on natural resources, whether renewable or non-renewable, and the environment, in a way that the future generations may enjoy, at best, the same level of wellbeing as the current one or improved. The Future we want is based on inclusive growth, the efficient use of our resources and technological development that is low carbon and aiming at climate resilient economy.

Rwandan government officials were in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, and on June 9th, 2013, the Republic of Rwanda signed the Establishment Agreement of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). On May 26th, 2016, it was ratified by the Presidential Order no. 11/01/. The GoR partnership with GGGI focused on Green Growth principles and practices that would help in the Implementation of the Rwanda Green Growth and Climate Change Strategy (GGCRS, 2011). The other attractive aspect of GGGI was its Modus Operandi, where GGGI country offices are embedded into government ministries and their strategic plans, known as Country Planning Framework (CPF), are prepared based on the government green growth priorities. GGGI came to join other development partners that had been operating in environment and climate change such as UN agencies, DFI, local and international NGOs etc.

Recent Rwandan achievements and innovations point to the right sustainable development direction. In December 2017, the first National Green Growth Week took place in Kigali and its success resulted in a decision by the Ministry of Environment to establish the Africa Green Growth Forum that will take place in November 2018. During the same week, an Electronic Waste Plant was inaugurated, the first of its kind in East Africa, and it has created new jobs and contributed to solving electronic waste management problems. This is in line with the African Circular Economy Alliance that Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, along with the World Economic Forum and the Global Environment Facility launched in November 2017, in Bonn, Germany to fast-track the adoption of the new model of sustainable development across the continent.

All these initiatives are being built on the past successful stories in environmental sustainability in Rwanda. For instance, ten years ago, the Rwandan Government banned plastic bags use in the country. The implementation of this decision was so successful that today many countries would like to know how Rwanda made it possible to achieve this commendable environmental friendly milestone. Today, the whole World is making decisions to “beat plastic pollution”.

The Environment and Climate Change Fund (FONERWA) has been transformed, based on the new Business Development Plan (2017-2020) developed in collaboration with GGGI. The FONERWA business plan will help it to deliver its growing mandate by adopting key design changes to transform the original demand-led FONERWA Fund to a more strategic, impactful and sustainable Green Finance Facility. A new law was enacted to allow FONERWA to play it’s a role and gave more authority to the Fund as a special status institution with wider responsibilities to independently mobilize, manage and coordinate climate and environment finance, as well as make critical human resources decisions to attract and retain talent. This fund, if well supported, will play a crucial role in sustainable Economic Transformation of the country.

There is tremendous progress being made by Rwanda towards sustainable management of its environment and natural resources since 2004, when the first Environment Policy was prepared. The new Environment Policy framework that is being developed under vision 2050; the country’s proactive engagement of seeking advice from the Experts in Environment and Climate Change such as Sir. David King, who is currently advising the GoR on climate change adaptation and mitigation; its affiliation to the international organizations that focus on Green Growth such as GGGI, UNEP and other similar organizations, show clearly that Rwanda is in the right direction towards its transition to Green Growth. More cooperation and partnership will be needed to mobilize financial resources and develop the required multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary capacity to accelerate the speed of the journey towards the Climate Resilient Rwanda.

Author: Former GGGI Country Representative in Rwanda and currently heading the Ethiopian GGGI Country Office.

Mr Innocent Kabenga, Country Rep for Ethiopia GGGI Office