20 Reasons You Should Live in Rwanda

After living in Kigali, Rwanda for the past two and a half years, I can’t speak highly enough about the place. The lively culture, the friendly and innovative people, the delicious food… it’s pure paradise, and there’s no end to the adventures, opportunities, and passionfruit juice you’ll encounter. I could ramble for hours on the topic, but I’ve decided to compile my top reasons to live in Kigali to hopefully convince others to move to the land of a thousand hills (if you have any, feel free to add them in the comments below!):

73388_10100283781421565_528178866_n1. We play polo – with motorcycles. Without any horses around, we make do. Which means organizing weekend polo matches with required fancy dress (British speak for “costume”) atop your trusty metal and gasoline-powered steed. The moto jousting halftime show was discontinued due to dislocated shoulders, but other than that, it’s just a few scratches here and there. So grab a bottle of cold Primus and join us on the field!

IMG_5208 (1)a2. Whole Foods has nothing on Kimironko Market. Rwanda is essentially an organic food lover’s dream. All fruit and vegetables are organic, non-GMO, non-hormone, the whole shebang… simply because, it’s all local and natural! There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a Saturday morning trip to Kimironko market and buying the most delicious avocado, carrots, beets, and ginger that only $60 at Whole Foods could buy, and whipping up a frothy fruity cocktail. And if you’re a fellow carnivore, Germany Bakery at MTN Center always has organic ground beef, lamb sausages, and sirloin steaks for ridiculously cheap. Boom, roasted. As in, delicious roasted goat meat.

IMG_4981a3. Your going away party is a camping trip alongside zebras and buffalo with a whole roasted pig for dinner. When one of my best girlfriends announced she was moving back to the US (she returned to Rwanda about six months later – I’m telling you, this place is hard to leave), we planned an epic camping trip in Akagera Park. We purchased a whole pig (already slaughtered, thank you very much), packed up our trucks, and drove a couple hours east from Kigali. That night we roasted pig for ten hours, sang around the campfire, and watched wildebeest and zebras roam next to our tents. The fact that this is even an option for a weekend activity is pretty breathtaking.

IMG_42824. It’s sunny and 75 degrees every. Single. Day. Think of it as an endless summer. Without seasons to give us a sense of time, why do you think so many expats disappear to Rwanda for years on end? It’s like a dream you never want to wake up from.
.

1741481_639609229459897_1888839592_n5. Witness a revolution in women’s education. Rwanda is known for its emphasis on female leadership (it’s the only country to have a female majority in Parliament). Institutions like the Akilah Institute are making sure that legacy continues, by being the only all-female college in East Africa and paving the road for a future generation of female business leaders. Visit the campus for your daily dose of inspiration and to hire your next business manager. *Disclaimer: My sister Elizabeth founded Akilah, which is why it’s so badass.

306215_10100319025137875_1782368159_n6. Why goes clothes shopping when you can design your own clothes out of a beautiful fabric called kitenge, for about $15/dress? Find a tailor you love, design your dress, and voila, you have a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that screams East African chic. The Rwandan fashion industry is quickly growing, with jewelry and apparel by local designers to fill your wardrobe for the endless summer. Other creative inventions I’ve seen include rompers, bowties, and blazers.


IMG_0095a7. Rwandan cuisine brings a whole lot of deliciousness to the table. Beyond your typical Rwandan meal of rice and beans, the goat meat brochettes (kebabs), matoke (grilled plantains), and isombe (steamed cassava leaves) are local delicacies you can get easily hooked on. If you love your fish, don’t worry, Lake Kivu and Tanganyika have plenty of tilapia and sambaza (fried sardines) to keep you satisfied. Just make sure you balance out all the carbs with plenty of veggies and goat meat.

IMG_3458a8. Perceived “third world disadvantages” (no electricity, water, internet, cable) are, in fact, advantages. Without the everyday, run-of-the-mill weekend activities like movie theaters, malls, and theme parks to rely on, we get creative in Kigali. Pool parties, board games (Settlers of Catan has a huge Rwanda fanbase), bar crawls, you name it (see #1). The social scene is always full of fun and creative activities, making for a tightknit community that enjoys trying new adventures. One friend of mine decided to organize a marathon through the Nyungwe rainforest to celebrate his 30th birthday, which has become an annual event; this year around 90 people turned out for the adventure. Some of the park rangers got confused and tried intimidating us with their AK-47’s, but with seasoned war-zone videographers leading the pack, who is going to stop us?

Paul_Kagame,_2009_World_Economic_Forum_on_Africa-3_cropped9. Be front and center to observe one of the world’s most inspiring political leaders. Paul Kagame, as controversial as he may be, is undeniably an effective and determined visionary who has led his country from civil war to economic success in just twenty years. The international media is constantly infatuated with his government’s progress, and being on the ground in Kigali to witness it firsthand is truly inspiring. Whether it’s the country’s first bond issuance to raise development capital, their alleged involvement in Congo’s affairs, or the twentieth anniversary of the ’94 genocide, the international spotlight is permanently fixated on the tiny East African country, and you get to watch it front and center.


IMG_1060a
10. “Roadtrip!” to Tanzania, Burundi, Congo, or Uganda. As they say, Rwanda is small, but nice! This means it takes about eight hours to drive from one side to the other, making it easy to get to any of the four beautifully different surrounding countries. On any given Saturday, take a bus to the waterfalls in Tanzania, the rainforest in Burundi, the lakes in Uganda, or the volcanoes in Congo. Guerrilla warfare in Congo is optional. If you’re looking to go further afield, dream destinations like Zanzibar, Masai Mara, and Ngorogoro Crater are a short flight away!

photo11. You meet the coolest people from all over the world – and Rwandans ARE some of the coolest people in the world. If you live in Rwanda, you’re probably really cool, adventurous, innovative, reckless, inspiring, or a combination of the above. And you probably have an awesome story to go along with it. Rwandans and expats alike contribute to create one of the most entrepreneurial and inspiring environments I’ve ever experienced, and it’s amazing to be a part of it. Why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with these people!?

12. Although it’s hard to break the surface at first, if you persevere, the professional opportunities are mind-blowing. For me personally, managing a team of twenty-five at the age of 24 was an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, and something I could never have done in the US. I have friends who moved here to become journalists with the Associated Press, run their own architecture consultancy, set up a creative co-working space… if you have the patience and determination to take your career to the next level here, it’s possible.

1383602_10100518409894225_764011418_n13. An explosive tech scene with promising ventures on the horizon. One of Kagame’s biggest economic incentives is to turn Rwanda into the tech and business hub of East Africa, and he’s well on his way to fulfilling this dream. Africa’s first comprehensive 4G is being rolled out across Rwanda in partnership with South Korean telecomms, the kLab tech incubator is producing some of EA’s most impressive techpreneurs, and Kigali-hosted conferences like Transform Africa are a testimony to it’s increasing prominence as one of the continent’s leading techies. If you’re a big tech nerd like me, this = paradise.

PA16099114. We have awesome yoga. Check out Yego Yoga Rwanda, which partners with studios in Butare and Musanze, and offers Zumba, pilates, and yoga classes at cool locations around Kigali. *Disclaimer, my friend Allie and I are co-founders of Yego Yoga… which makes it even more awesome.

1974994_10100652021455585_1087712104_n15. Nothing planned for the weekend? Go hang out with wild gorillas. The crown jewel in Rwanda’s sparkling collection of tourist attractions, trekking the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park is the experience of a lifetime. If you can’t afford the absurd permit price ($750 for foreigners, $375 for foreign residents, $45 for Rwandans),  going up to Musanze and spending a weekend hiking in the mountains is inspiring enough. And, if you’re lucky, you may accidentally bump into a gorilla along the way!

1898111_210212849178198_1406963113_n16. You tryin’ to start something? Do it. And no, I don’t mean a riot or political revolution. As Rwanda continues to grow, it’s in that sweet spot where there’s a lot of demand and not a whole lot of supply. Not much yoga happening? Start a yoga company (see #14). No artistic community? Open an art gallery and workshops center. No online resource for things to do and see? Build a profitable website curating awesome reviews and articles. Entrepreneurialism is second nature to Rwandans, and it’s easy to get infected by this bug once you’re on the ground. So roll up your sleeves and dive in!

IMG00318-20120920-084017. Who needs subways and buses? We take motorcycles to get around. If you don’t own one (which you might end up doing, since you don’t need any approval to drive it off the lot), hopping on a motorcycle is as easy as flagging one down and haggling in Kinyarwanda. As long as you learn the basics (“How much? Eh! No, it’s not too far. How about 200 francs? Ok, sawa, let’s go.”), you’re moto-ready. And who doesn’t like to start their daily commute off with an invigorating ride on the back of a Rwandan moto?

483083_10100299955114355_406425462_n18. Lake Kivu. This should probably be reason #1 – check it out from Gisenyi (on the Congo border), at the halfway point in Kibuye, or down south in Cyangugu. It’s the most beautiful lake in the world, with islands to explore, hot springs to relax in, and stunning mountains dropping right to the water’s edge. Just don’t stick around for the impending methane explosion.

19. Everyday tasks are always an adventure. Grocery shopping becomes haggling in the markets, buying furniture becomes designing and ordering handmade pieces in the woodworking cooperative, and getting around becomes finding a reliable moto driver to take you to work every morning (see #17). Trust me, there is always a good story to tell after each of those activities. No more humdrum Sunday chores for you!

408437_10100288362286475_1159244268_n20. Even in the main city of Kigali, you can go ten minutes and be in the middle of a rural village and gorgeous hillscape. Which makes for some lovely weekday runs. Rwanda isn’t called the land of a thousand hills for nothing!

**Except for 5 (Akilah Institute), 9 (Google search, gotta love it), and 16 (Inema Arts), all photos taken by yours truly.

73 Comments on “20 Reasons You Should Live in Rwanda

  1. what doest take to do business in Rwanda? or work in the country

  2. Nice and Interesst mails and replies from all above.

    I would like to visit Rwanda. Is it safe to live for some years. What about
    Rent and living expeneses.

    I am aged 56 yrs male. I am retired from Cargo Airline. Can I get any
    kind of job in Administration or Hotel job in Rwanda. Is there any
    other job opportunities.

    Also will the government extend any help for doing Agriculture Irrigation on
    lease. What will be the lease cost and at what condition. What are
    the norms and rules ????

  3. Pingback: The Post-MBA Transition: 6 Things to Look Forward to after Graduation | MP is for Mary-Patton

  4. Dear Mary,

    I have a job offer in Rwanda. Is Rwanda a safe place for solo female expatriates? Aside from Kigali, I will possibly be traveling to the cities/towns of Muhanga, Rusizi, Rubavu, Nyagatare, Musanze, and Huye for work.

    I would appreciate your thoughts and tips on safety and convenience for solo female expats.

    • Hi Rainbow! Yes I found Kigali to be great for female expats. Incredibly safe and easy to meet great people, both locals and expats. Plenty of things to do in those towns as well – you’ll be headed to some very gorgeous places! Enjoy!

  5. Having lived in a sugar factory atmosphere at Kabuye for more than 7 years (1999 to 2006) travelling across the jungles and swamps of Runda, Rugarika Butamwa, Gaseke Gitarama Ruhengeri and I do on…..Ialways address, whenever and wherever I refer till today the following:
    1. CENTRALLY AIR CONDITIONED COUNTRY
    2. RAINS ONCE IN 10 DAYS
    3. THE MOST SAFEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA
    4. AS mentioned EMINENT LEADERSHIP
    5. As Bhagavat Gita Says PEOPLE DO NOT WORRY ABOUT NEXT MEAL. When asked ‘ imana irahari’ means God is there.
    6. The clean air and water……
    Salutes to Rwanda and Rwandaese.

  6. Hi,

    I have a job opportunity in Rwanda,
    I am an Indian, is it safe for me…
    Please reply….

    • Hi Siva,

      Yes, Rwanda is absolutely a safe place! Both in general and for Indians. I knew plenty of Indian families while I was living there. There is a strong permanent Indian community (and a few great Indian restaurants in Kigali) as well as transient Indians as well. I feel this is the case for a lot of East African countries. I hope you feel safe and confident enough to go and enjoy!

    • I wish Africans can say the same about India. Africans in India are treated like shit. The racism towards Africans in India is unbelievable. Luckily Africans are too generous to return the favor

      • India is a Sub Continent and with huge diversities. There may be bad examples in the metropolitan cities about how people treat Africans but there must be many many examples of their generosity too. I am sure we need to take a balanced view on this matter. Yes, after visiting Rwanda, I have to say that all countries in asia need to learn a lot about female literacy and safety.I love Rwanda and will keep visiting.

  7. I am Somali who raised in Kenya and now lives in Canada.
    In 2016, I travelled to 12 cities around the world. I was in Rwanda in January in 2017 and I have to say It was the most memorable trip I made in my life. I could not believe my eyes. Kigali was the City I always dreamed of in my life. The weather, the people, the Infrastructure, Food, Culture, Safety, opportunities, the scenery you name it. Kigali has it all. I made a decision within days that I want to move and live in Rwanda.

    With a Canadian passport, I did not know that I had to get my Visa prior to travelling to Rwanda. Most African countries issue Visa on Arrival. I almost got in to trouble but since Rwanda is part of the East African community, I was able to get a Visa minutes before my flight. I think they need to fix this because if you can allow people to come in to your country through a Visa issued by Kenya ( most corrupt immigration) why not allow people to come to your airports and get the stamp and make the money yourself.

    If there like minded people who would to connect so we can all go and live in Rwanda, let me know.

    • Hi Mohamed ,

      Please let me know how did you go with your Rwanda adventure and whether you are currently living there.

      I have an Australian passport and willing to explore life and Rwanda sounds great. I have a family as well, wife and a five year old son. At the moment I work full time in Project Management and Contract Management here in Australia.

      It would be great to hear from you.

      Regards

      Puru

  8. Hiiii Dears
    what do you think about living in Rwanda??? My Family want to move there and start a new life ..sound it is great from the Article… but I am afraid from some things…is it save for children ? are there good schools ? are there any diseases ? if we decide to travel , do we need Visa ?? I don’t know any thing about that .. please help me…want your advice
    r.khawatmi@gmail.com

  9. The vegetables are not organic. In fact it is worse than that. All insecticide labels have a time between application and harvest that are closely followed in the US and Europe (huge fines) in Rwanda most can not even read the label. There is one organic farm and I am starting another one. Pesticides are a huge problem here. And yes Rwanda does have GMO. The head of Agriculture said quantity if before quality. They also have no way to certify organic. Tanzania has a pesticide testing for export since Europe will make you dump it if it is too high, so I imagine those that do not pass are sold in the market.

    • you are doing Negative marketting of the whole country to favor your small business. how many people using chemical fertilizers, how many using organic manure……what you are saying is not true.

      • Hi LeRoy – this is not a small business, so there is no marketing I am attempting to do here. What I am relaying is simply the fond memories and experiences I had while living in Rwanda. I do not doubt there are unfavorable practices happening in the country, as anywhere else, however that is not the scope of this post. I encourage all readers to express their views, whether positive or negative, here. Keep in mind that I am expressing opinions, not facts, and thus your statement that what I am saying is not true is illogical. Please do share whatever you may think on the farming practices of the country, I’m curious to hear what you have seen or experienced.

        • You do actually state that all produce is “All fruit and vegetables are organic, non-GMO, non-hormone, the whole shebang… ” Forming your statement that way makes it a fact, not an opinion.

          • Hi Anonymous – indeed, the fruits and vegetables I encountered during my time in Rwanda were in fact all of those descriptors you list. However, that is restricted to my personal experience so you’re right in that this should not be a blanket statement for the entire country. I may not be aware of such situations but if you are, then it’s great for you to share those facts here! Thanks!

      • Hi Rwanda support – I don’t have a future business related to this blog or website, but if you see potential for one, please do let me know! I’d love to pursue it. In the meantime please continue to leave constructive comments here to further the conversation. Names are preferable, but if you feel so strongly about truly supporting Rwanda then I guess the pseudonym of “Rwanda support” makes sense. Thanks!

    • Happy to read this comments, it can be an opportunities for other Bio brand investors. Let just remind you that more that 80% of Rwandans are small farm holders and the chemical inputs are not a tradition there. Inputs costs are high to them and they are not acustomed to buy inputs, anyway. Inputs include seeds( highest cost in rwandan agriculture after labor), fertilizers, pesticides. Only those less who can afford to buy them can use them and in small quantity. I would like to give u the statistics about what quantity of pesticides rwanda imports , unfortunetly, i dont but in general African continent uses 3% of world pesticides … I think this can give you an idea. Of course, consumers would appreciate to have a clear information and if your business can provide that it is awesome but it doesnt mean that others who cant afford the cost of standardization etc have bad products based on rwandan agriculture system. And most of the food consumed there are from local markets, not super markets. That indicate how direct and connect consumers are and farmers can be, which help farmers to enjoy more than a half of the market price share. Rwandan farming system is still labor intensif and less external inputs, in general.

  10. Hi,

    I’m 57 going on 39 and travelling to Rwanda at the end of Sept. I’d like to design food tours in Kigali and in other tourist zones. I’m from Vancouver, bc Canada. I’d like to partner with a ‘foodie’ Rwandan women. I only can afford two weeks. During that time I need to arrange site visits and discuss options with the decision maker. If you know of a person on the ground who can be my assistant please let me know while I’m in the country.

  11. Hey!

    I’m coming to Rwanda, Kigali in August 01st – 22nd. I would love to meet up and discuss your progress! It is a dream one day to move to Rwanda and make a success of myself. I come out and work alongside SURF generally; but have bigger ambitions to do it myself one day. Probably heading down the sports sector.
    Can you contact me or can I contact you?
    my email is: lewisfoskett@aol.com

    Thank you!!!

    lewis x

  12. This is just a note to say that I loved this blog post (and I like yego yoga a lot :)). I just moved to Kigali a month ago and finding blogs/posts like this inspire me to explore more.

  13. Hi, Is moving to Rwanda a challenge with the authorities and how is the job distribution there: Like are the locals given priority? How friendly is the country to foreign investors?
    How about middle class living?

  14. Can I do mail order business from Rwanda? Is theft and burglary a problem? Any muggings? How about travel to other cities? Are there asphalted intercity highways in Rwanda? What about taxes? Business registration? What kind of jobs are available in Rwanda and what are monthly salaries?

  15. Pingback: Being New in Kigali, Rwanda | iwannabeaworldcitizen

  16. Pingback: 20 reasons you should live in Kigali. | iwannabeaworldcitizen

  17. Hey friend .

    Am in my late 20s ,am a Nigerian a residence of Kenya , i have been staying kenya for a while now . read alot about Rwanda . and i would like to stay in rwanda . am a fashion designer . can anyone put me through

  18. Loved seeing the pictures! The art gallery where your Yego Yoga is held looks very much like the one next door to Solace Ministries, on Solace Way, where I have stayed the last 4 times I have visited Rwanda. How nice to see all the photos, but those in particular brought back wonderful memories!
    We had some great Mexican food at Mesa Freshe – walking distance from Solace.
    Thanks for the story!

    • Thanks Ellen for the nice words about Rwanda. We have removed the ceiling above our dreams. There are no more impossible dreams

  19. Great article! That is the greatest Rwanda, our motherland where the power is in the hands of Rwandans to design their destiny, a journey of resilience, where great women are the beginning of all great things you mentioned and where coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success. God be with you and actions will remove the doubts that theory cannot solve.

  20. Very proud to be in Rwanda my country! So clean and beautiful this country! Dear friends, you are all welcome in this lovely and blessed country! God bless Rwanda.

  21. MP, this is a great list 🙂 I remember meeting briefly in DC before you moved to Kigali — great to see you’ve had such a great experience there and are encouraging others to get to know it too. Be well! -AF

    • Thanks Andrew, good to hear from you again! Hope all is well at NDI, either in DC or wherever you are in the world!

  22. Great piece ! I am glad that you enjoyed the hills of Rwanda and it’s people!

  23. Great place and you captured its essence – I miss it dearly !!!

  24. That’s absolutely great Article!!..Thank you very much..

  25. Thanks Pat for this great article……im really moved . This is our beautiful country with great hospitality. im pledging to offer you a roof when you come back in here. you re a true ambassodor.

    • Thank you Derrick, very kind of you to offer 🙂 Rwandan hospitality should be reason #21!

  26. Beautiful country, agreed! However, after having had 7 guns at my head and having had to hide for 2 weeks…. hmmmm??? Not sure it’s all worth it at the end. I lived there for 4 years and, like you, was sweetly innocent and believing the best of everyone for most of that time. But then, the reality of what surviving means (As oppose to just plain living) hit me like a ton of bricks. However, this being said, I have to say that you have still written a mostly accurate blog that did remind me of good memories. I guess it’s all about who your friends are…

    • Dear Joyful..

      Very unfortunate that you went through that during the genocide period… However after living in several cities in the USA (26 years) I was mugged, car-jacked and put at gun point at a Burger King joint…. I also had a classmate who was attacked and beaten by a bunch of thugs in Philly…. and these are violent incidents that occur by the hour, by the day in America – and there isn’t even a “war” going on! Just some perspective…

      • Dear Joyful ,

        Sorry for your bad past experience but Rwanda is still a beautiful country! Besides genocide 20 years ego , Rwanda is one of the safetest county in Africa! Actually I am visiting Rwanda very soon , I can’t wait!

        • Yeah, like they killed most of the people in Rwanda, to make it safer… 🙂 And the killers still walk around? There must be many of them. Who’s next on their target?

      • That is not the experience most of us have in the United States. In my 67 years, I have never been mugged, car jacked, had my house robbed or threatened in any way, nor have most folks I know. If you go into some dangerous inner city areas in some our largest cities, you do need to be careful. Just need to use common sense.

    • Joyful, gun? Please elaborate. You are the first person I have heard talk about guns being held to their head in Rwanda. Did you mean during the genocide?

  27. Great post! Would be nice to give credit to the creators of Moto polo, it has been going on for years before I even lived there (2008-2011): James and Sam Dargan and Matt Smith. James lives in Tanzania now but Matt and Sam are still in Kigali keeping it going.?

    • Yeah I know them all well! Kudos to them for starting such an awesome Saturday afternoon tradition, it’s still going strong!

  28. Well captured, eloquent as usual. I didn’t know about Yego Yoga, and def WILL be stretching it out over there in July!

  29. Pingback: The Daily Roundup for May 20, 2014 - Rwanda News, OpinionsRwandaPost

  30. Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for a great read!

  31. Pingback: "Pure paradise" - American blogger lists 20 reasons to live in Rwanda - Rwanda News, OpinionsRwandaPost

  32. I was not born in Rwanda. I had a slightly blurred picture of Rwanda. That country in which to get in, I had to ask for a visa. I came to Rwanda twice young, very young to visit my grandmother. She spoke only Kinyarwanda, my cousins ​​had to translate for me and I found all this surreal situation. When I really came to Rwanda and after a walk on the tracks I saw Lake Muhazi I literally cried. The climate in Rwanda is the equivalent of the Indian summer all year with a negligeable index of pollution. Rwanda is a small country, everybody knows each other. There’s a saying that God travels the world to come to Rwanda to sleep at night. Tha left us to ensure that our days are fulfilled for the evening, the tranquility is our.

    • This is amazing! What a lovely and blessed country.i can not beleive you know every thing about Rwanda.

        • THE US IS STILL THE BEST COUNTRY–ANYONE WHO THINKS ANOTHER COUNTRY IS BETTER IS MAKING ANOTHER POOR CHOICE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.