As Rwandans welcome the New Year, leaders occupying key positions in the society already have their work cut out.
The list below is by no means exhaustive. Leading the list are officials from local government — in particular new mayors who are expected to be elected between February and April in 2021 across all the 30 districts.
These new grassroot leaders will be under enormous pressure to improve service delivery and help their constituents to overcome the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Rwandans will be hoping there will be more accountability and improved citizen centred service delivery.
This change of guard is critical at the moment as decentralised administrative entities are at the centre of implementation of socio-economic programmes targeting the vulnerable and many at risk of falling below the poverty line following a pandemic.
Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry
One of her biggest tasks in 2021 will be facilitating the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. She is also expected to lobby the Biden Administration to have Rwanda back on the list of full beneficiaries to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
US President Donald Trump in 2018 suspended the application of duty-free treatment for all apparel products from Rwanda as retaliation for its banning of second-hand clothing. She will also be tasked with negotiating deals with the UK and the European Union under Brexit.
Claver Gatete, Minister of Infrastructure
For the most part of 2020, Claver Gatete has served while under the radar of Rwanda Investigative Bureau (RIB). He has been investigated on allegations about corruption and misuse of public funds. His docket has some of the most delayed projects, many from way before his time in that office.
For example, supply of safe, reliable water was supposed to be at 100 percent by 2017. Rwanda targets 100 percent electricity access by 2024 — up from 48 percent currently — an ambitious target that is firmly within Mr Gatete’s docket.
Valentine Uwamariya, Minister of Education
She in February 2020, inherited one of the most troubled ministries in the country. None of her last two predecessors stayed on the job for more than three years, after failing to show progress. Ms Uwamariya faces a daunting task of reviving public schools whose enrolment rates have declined. She must recruit competent teachers to improve learning outcomes as well as fast migration to use of technology in schools.
Vincent Biruta, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Vincent Biruta has headed Rwanda’s foreign docket for approximately one year now. The pandemic complicated and slowed progress on diplomacy as several bilateral and multilateral engagements were suspended as governments around the world focused on dealing with the health crisis.
He also faces a major test when Rwanda hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June.
Dr Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health
Dr Ngamije was appointed at the time when the pandemic began to get out of hand. As expected the Minister has been preoccupied with saving lives. There is hope that the vaccine will be available in 2021 though there is no set date.
Once the vaccine becomes available, the more challenging task will be the logistics involving procuring equipment, distribution and convincing Rwandans to take the vaccine.
Ms Yvonne Makolo, Chief Executive Officer, RwandAir
Over the last decade, the expansion of the national airline, RwandAir has largely been funded by public debt estimated in excess of $200 million.
In 2020, the dramatic drop in demand for passenger air transport due to the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures threatened the viability of the aviation industry around the world. Despite being a key enabler of many other economic activities, the change in passenger behavior, travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis will continue to complicate efforts to revive the industry.
Steering the airline back to full operation in 2021 will be Ms Makolo’s biggest task. On top of that, it will also be a big achievement if Qatar Airways finally puts ink to paper on its prospective deal to buy 49 percent stake in Rwandair – a deal which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.