Nile Basin – No Deal After Summit

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Discussions between Nile Basin countries fail to reach agreement as many leaders boycott talks.

The Nile Basin Summit from June 20-22nd was convened to provide an opportunity for the ten countries reliant on the River Nile to agree on the equitable use of the resource. Tensions around the vital water source have persisted for many decades.

Initial signs, however, were less promising as a number of leaders chose not to attend. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kirr notified the delegates that they would skip the event.

The summit brought together all countries along the River Nile and was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, South Sudan Vice President Joseph Wani, Burundi’s 2nd Vice President Joseph Butore and Sudan’s Vice President Hasabo Mohammed Abdul Rahman.

The leaders of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania also turned down invitations to attend at the last minute, although no clear reasons for the decision were given by the respective embassies.

It was clear during the meeting that an agreement on the equitable use of resources was proving difficult as stakeholders repeatedly walked out of meetings at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda.

Led by Sudan, water security experts walked out a meeting at 10pm on June 21st, while Ethiopia followed suit. In the large the summit was organised to nudge Egypt, the biggest beneficiary of the Nile basin, to join the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

However, Egyptian Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Mohammed Abdel-Atti said that his country would only rejoin if some provisions in the draft Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) were changed.

Al-Sisi reportedly said that his country was suffering from a water deficit of 21.5 billion cubic metres per year. However, although Egypt hasn’t yet rejoined NBI, it will engage in development projects in the region.

Speaking to journalists, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he and his colleagues discussed development issues. Despite only three heads of state being present, Museveni said they decided to meet as leaders to discuss the ‘strategic issues of the Nile.’ reported the Observer. 

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Nile Basin – Source: Africa Water.

According to Museveni, prosperity for the Nile Basin countries is the best way to protect the river and other vital water systems in Africa. He pointed out a number of key threats to water systems.

These threats included the growing population, lack of electricity supply, lack of industrialisation, over-reliance on primitive agriculture and the destruction of the environment on which the Nile depends.

He said that industrialising the Nile Basin would resolve the problems of the bulk of the population engaging in primitive agriculture, pushing many into the industry and service sectors. He added that this would reduce the strain on the environment through the invasion of wetlands and destruction of forests for agriculture, reported the Uganda Media Centre.

Of course this sort of solution is denounced by others who note how industrialisation will lead to further environmental degradation and pollution, and raise levels of inequality as groups are incorporated, often on adverse terms, as labourers in the service or manufacturing economy.

Further, a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in December 2015 whereby the three countries agreed to end tensions over River Nile water, is also facing an unclear future due to ongoing tensions between Egypt and Sudan.

The two downstream countries at the end of April agreed to de-escalate tensions and end counter-accusations as well as import bans and deportations had brought relations between the two countries to tipping point.

Meanwhile Ethiopia continued its quest to bring Nile Basin countries on its side as its Grand Renaissance Dam nearing completion.

With electricity as a bargaining chip observers say Ethiopia will have an edge over Egypt which claims the majority share of Nile waters, given to it by a colonial agreement put in place by the British, reported the East African.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Grand Renaissance Dam Project
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 3, Pp. 20795A–20795B

POWER: Egypt – Ethiopia – Sudan
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 8, Pp. 20543C–20545C

EGYPT – ETHIOPIA: Nile Dam Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 50, Issue. 10, Pp. 20154B–20155B

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DR Congo – Toxic Gas Threatens Communities

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Lake Kivu sees rising levels of noxious gases as concerns for the welfare of local communities grows.

DR Congo’s Lake Kivu, particularly the Gulf of Kabuno, in the eastern part of the country, is seeing increased seepage from underground carbon dioxide; according to the Ministry of Energy and Water, in 2008 the gas was around 25 metres below the surface but now it is around 12 metres.

One fisherman said, “If you leave the fishing net long inside the water, the gas destroys it, and if you go into the lake, the skin becomes white. That scares me,” reported Deutschewelle.

However other commentators have said that the situation has yet to be scientifically proven. Even though CO2 is nontoxic to humans, in large quantities it hinders the absorption of oxygen which can lead to death. Areas that could be affected include villagers around the Gulf of Kabuno, and the United Nations (UN) mission MONUSCO stationed nearby.

The Congolese government, despite not confirming the threat, has moved to implement as US$3 million project to remove the carbon dioxide from underneath the lake.

Engineers have installed a platform 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from shore with a pipe that extends down to the lakefloor. Project Manager at Limnological Engineering, Pierre Lebrun, said that then a special piece of equipment, a gas lift, pulls the water to the surface where the CO2 is separated off.

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However a large part of the problem is that underneath the lake are two active volcanoes, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira, so the pipes would have to remain in the lake to deal with the constant stream of the gas.

The lake also emits methane, although more on the Rwandan side than in DR Congo. The Rwandan authorities have sought to produce electricity from the methane emitted, and Kigali and Kinshasa are seeking to construct a shared methane power station.

Similarly the Congolese government wants to plant around 360 hectares of land with 560,000 eucalyptus trees, although there are concerns, as there are across much of the African continent, that quick growing non-native species such as eucalyptus are used as a quick fix for forest cover statistics.

There also remain concerns that efforts to pump out the gas will mean that the purified water will be pumped back into the lake, potentially dislodging the chemical nature of different water layers. Mathieu Yalire from Goma Volcanological Observatory said that “it would be a disaster if the remaining water would be in the bio-zone. That would destroy the ecosystem. The fish and other animals may no longer exist,” and this would have enormous consequences for the people who depend on fishing the lake as a livelihood.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Drought and Hunger Across Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.2, Pp.21167A–21167B

SOMALIA: Drought Spells Disaster for Herders
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.2, Pp.21169B–21170A

WATER: Zimbabwe
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.1, Pp.21156A–21157C

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Zambia – Xenophobic Violence

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Spate of ritual killings leads to retaliatory attacks directed largely at foreign nationals in the region.

On April 7th a murder was reported in the capital Lusaka’s Matero constituency, the body showing signs of mutilation, with the heart and genital area removed. This incident marked the sixth case in a growing number of suspected ritual murders, reported Zambia Reports.

Over a week later, on April 18th, security services claimed they had arrested four people in connection with the attacks, with reports suggesting they may have been found with body parts. President Edgar Lungu commented that the motivations were surely something outside of the national Christian religion, reported Zambia Reports.

On the same day, in protest against the killings, locals looted shops in Zingalume, George and Matero townships; residents accused foreigners of being behind the six killings in the Zingalume area. Police spokesperson Charity Chanda confirmed that houses and shops belonging to foreigners had been destroyed and looted, reported the Times of Zambia.

In Chawama residents took to the streets in protest demanding that the government facilitate the deportation of foreigners in the area, particularly Rwandan nationals who are widely accused of involvement.

On April 19th the East African stated that as many as 200 people had been arrested in Lusaka during the protests. The most affected areas include George, Lilanda, Chunga and Zingalume in the west, and parts of Matero, Chaisa, Kabanana, Mandevu and Chipata in the north.

By April 20th as many as 62 shops had been looted and the figure of arrestees in connection to the violence had risen to 256.

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Lusaka

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Country Representative Ms Laura Lo Castro said, “we would like to urge Zambians to continue maintaining the unblemished high reputation, respected by the international community, of being hospitable to foreigners, including refugees,” reported the Herald.

Around 20 Rwandan nationals had approached the Rwandan High Commission in Lusaka for protection after the spate of xenophobic attacks, claimed Rwandan New Times.

The Rwanda High Commission’s interventions advised Rwandans in Lusaka that once threatened they should go to the nearest Police Station for safety but remain alert and avoid unnecessary movements; advising nationals to strictly abide and observe the national laws of the host country.

According to the Times of Zambia the recent levels of xenophobic violence are some of the worst since independence, with violence against Rwandans, Lebanese and Chinese residents on the rise. Analysts have also suggested that foreigners are usually engaged in business in Lusaka and have a higher financial status than many locals; the protests and riots were reportedly more common in the shanty towns than middle and higher class neighbourhoods.

According to the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana, there are over 10,000 Rwandan refugees in Zambia, mainly those who fled the 1994 Genocide. The Rwandan government has been attempting to lure some of those refugees back, by demonstrating the progress the country has made.

However, a majority of Rwandans in Zambia remain there for “economic reasons” with over 6,500 Rwandans running businesses in the capital Lusaka, reported the East African. On April 24th 13 Rwandans were flown out of Zambia after loosing property and lifetime savings in the attacks.

Charge d’Affaires at the High Commission of Rwanda in Zambia, Abel Buhungu, said on April 24th that the situation had calmed slightly as security forces were deployed in restive suburbs.

Find out more in the African Research Bulletin:

Zambia – Politician Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20930B

ZAMBIA: Election Date
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20851A–20851C

SOUTH AFRICA: Xenophobic Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20524C–20526A

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Africa – Agricultural Policies Harm the Poorest

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Research suggests that small-holder farmers are often negatively impacted by agricultural modernisation policies.

According to research by University of East Anglia (UEA) scholars Dr Neil Dawson, Dr Adrian Martin and Professor Thomas Sikor, published in the World Development Journal, ‘green revolution policies’ promoted by the organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are adversely impacting the poorest.

As much as 90% of the population in Africa are smallholder farmers and are reliant on some form of agriculture; new agricultural innovation poses possible benefits but also great risk.

According to the research, only a minority of wealthy people have been able to keep up agricultural modernisation, as poorer farmers are not able to afford to risk of taking out credit to purchase expensive seeds and fertilisers. Instead, due to pressure from the government, farmers often choose to sell their land.

Specifically the study examined Rwandan agricultural policies and changes to rural inhabitants in eight villages in the west of the country. In this area, high population density and modernising agricultural policies have forced farmers to adopt single crops, in comparison to as many as 60 different types cultivated previously.

Policies in Rwanda posit that agriculture should be focused on specialisation and land management in an efficient and uniform manner, said Dr Dawson, cited by UK-based the Guardian. One farmer commented that ““We have no ability to oppose decisions made by the government. They tell us to plant crops in the wrong season. They’ll say, ‘Grow beans now’ and everyone here knows it’s the wrong time to grow them.”

“The result we saw was that the long-standing knowledge of soils, ecological gradients and associated social as well as economic interactions have, in a flash, been replaced with rules and administrative boundaries”, said Dr Dawson.

“Similar results are emerging from other experiments in Africa. Agricultural development certainly has the potential to help these people, but instead these policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants,” he continued.

The authors of the study recommended green revolution policies be subject to much broader and more rigorous impact assessments, and that poverty mitigating efforts should be incorporated, such as encouraging land access for the poorest and supporting traditional practices in a “gradual and voluntary modernisation”.

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Uganda: CC- 2011

Agriculture is of crucial importance to the well-being and economic stability of many African countries; Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently stated that agriculture is the country’s only hope for an economic resurgence, as profits from oil exports continue to decline, reported Ventures Africa.

In South Africa, agriculture is in a precarious position due to an ongoing drought, which has seen five out of nine regions declared disaster zones. Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West provinces have been declared disaster zones. Cattle, sheep and goat farmers have been urged to cut the sizes of their herds, as land has been scorched and the maize harvest is expected to fall by 25%. Food prices are also expected to rise by 20% or more in 2016, reported the Africa Report.

On February 17-18th development leaders, African heads of state and other representatives gathered for the 39th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella said, as has been witnessed in South Africa, one of the greatest threats to food production is climate change. He highlighted the IFAD Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme – which now assists farmers in developing countries around the world adapt to changing climatic conditions.

Investing in smallholder agriculture helps to stabilise communities and countries and reduce conflict. “You achieve the means to feed families, support forms of social organisation, preserve land and biodiversity, fight against climate change, create jobs and prosperity, contribute to stable and just societies and, most importantly, eradicate the root causes that push more people to emigrate, ” Mattarella said in an IFAD Press Release.

The African Transformation Forum (ATF), which is to take place on March 14-15th, in Kigali, Rwanda, is to see wide-ranging discussions on the possibilities of agriculture as the basis for economic transformation across the country.

However with the polarised debates around agricultural modernisation, the evident impacts of climate change, and resurgence of an economic emphasis on agriculture, it is crucial to consider carefully the role of agricultural policies and practices in creating greater inequalities and deepening poverty among the poorest and most agriculture-dependant populations.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Southern Africa’s Food Crisis – from Bad to Worse
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue. 12, Pp.21097B–21097C

ETHIOPIA: Drought Aid
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.21094C–21095B

Food Security
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.10, Pp.21025A–21025C

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East Africa: Investments in Rail Infrastructure

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Members of the East African Community pledge to use Central and Northern Transport Corridors to unlock the region’s economic potential

East African Community (EAC) member states, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are hoping to implement joint infrastructure projects to further boost regional trade and growth. Tanzanian President and Chairman of the EAC, Jakaya Kikwete is quoted by Tanzania Daily News as saying “it is my wish to see the Northern and Central Corridors infrastructure to be one in the future”.

Following a Northern & Central Corridor Investors Forum in Dar es Salaam on March 25th, EAC members launched the construction of the US$14.2 billion East African Central Corridor Railway. According to Transport Minister Samuel Sitta the project will be “the single biggest project ever to be implemented by the Tanzanian government since our countries independence”, report Reuters.

The project will involve constructing 2561km of standard gauge railway to connect Dar es Salaam to landlocked neighbours of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia and eastern DR Congo,  costing around $7.6bn, while two other additional lines will be constructed to serve mining regions in the southern and northern Tanzania, at a cost of around $6.6bn. The main line will contain spur lines that will connect to Kigali, Rwanda, Bjumbura in Burundi, and Masaka, Uganda, explain Tanzania News Daily.

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Landlocked countries in Africa are reliant on rail and road links through to main coastal economic and commercial hubs; in East Africa particularly Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. In direct competition to the Tanzanian railway plans, Kenya is also constructing a standard gauge railway, funded by China Road and Bridge Corporation, from Mombasa-Nairobi to Kampala.

The Kenyan government has claimed the new railway from Mombasa to the Great Lakes region will boost economic growth by 1.5% per year, report Ventures Africa, eventually extending to replace the ageing colonial-era narrow gauge railway that reaches towards DR-Congo. The initial 609 km section from Mombasa to Nairobi has been started with a finish date set for 2017.

China has agreed to finance part of a $3.2 billion Uganda rail plan, report East Africa Business Week; construction of the Eastern and Northern Standard Gauge Railway that will connect Kampala, Malaba on the Kenyan border and Nimule in South Sudan, while joining the wider standard gauge network, giving fruitful economic benefits from links to Kenya’s coastal commercial hub.

AFKInsider comment that Kenya and Tanzania are vying to be the preferred regional transport hub and with recent oil and gas discoveries in the region, the area has become a hive of exploration. Transport minister Sitta said “We are in competition at all times with the Mombasa port…its a competitive business so we need to be efficient”.

Both countries are also planning to invest in new port projects at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Lamu in Kenya, report Tanzania Daily News. The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project was first proposed in the 1970s to provide Sudan and Ethiopia access to the Indian ocean. In 2013 China Communications Construction Co Ltd won the US$445 million contract for the first three berths of the port and according to the Kenyan government the LAPSSET project is nearing advanced stages. The project includes an economic corridor comprised of road networks, oil pipelines, three airports and a standard gauge railway network from Lamu to Juba, South Sudan and Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia (shown on map below).

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The majority of financing for large infrastructure projects across East Africa, and large parts of the African continent as a whole, is stemming from China, who have recently signed agreements with the African Union (AU) for a network of high-speed rail links in the next few decades.

Chinese companies and banks are financing a variety of railway projects across the region  including the Addis-Ababa Light Rail Transit System in Ethiopia. In 2014 China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation completed the reconstruction of the Benguela railway connecting Angola, Zambia and south-eastern DR Congo, and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is constructing the $4 billion, 740-km electric railway that connects Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Open database, Aid Data, provide a useful visual mapping of Chinese-financed projects in Africa, available here.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Roads & Railways: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp. 20715B-20716A

Ports & Shipping: Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.10, Pp. 20607A-20608A

Roads & Railways: Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20536B-20537C

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Africa: The Future Looks Bright for African Solar Power

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Surge in investment and implementation of solar power projects is hoped to address developmental needs.

On January 25th the World Bank introduced ‘Scaling Solar’, an initiative aimed at creating favourable market conditions for private solar projects across Africa, increasing the energy supply to both residential and commercial customers. This is one of a number of projects that have become operationalised in recent months.

Africa provides huge scope for solar projects, with abundant sunlight and open-space, solar power could provide novel solutions to development needs.

Scaling Solar is combining resources from the World Bank, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and finance from the International Financing Corporation (IFC). The IFC website quotes Vice President for Global Client Services, Jean Philippe Prosper, explaining that “by quickly delivering affordable electricity to previously un-reached populations, significant progress can be made on other development goals”.

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According to the IFC a number of obstacles have constrained the development of solar energy in Africa including:

  • A lack of utility-scale projects due to unique structures and features of African markets
  • A lack of competition and inexperienced investors
  • High transaction costs that constrain smaller projects
  • Perceived risks and costs of capital
  • The limited institutional capacity of African governments

The Scaling Solar initiative seeks to overcome these hurdles by providing access to solar technology, increased participation and risk management and credit enhancement products.  The World Bank hopes to build upon its experience of large and small scale solar power, particularly the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program (REIPPP) in South Africa.

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Under the REIPPP in South Africa a number of successes have been highlighted; on March 6th 2015 Abengoa and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) announced the operationalisation of Africa’s first concentrated solar power project (CSP), the 100 Megawatt (MW) KaXu Solar One Project. Abengoa and IDC are also implementing the 100 MW CSP Xina Solar Project expected to be commissioned in 2017 and the Khi Solar One Project, a 50 MW CSP project.

In Rwanda, Gigawatt Global Ltd have implemented East Africa’s first utility-scale energy project, a 8.5 MW solar field at Rwamagana, 60km from Kigali. The solar field consists of 28,360 PV panels across a 20 hectare plot of land and is expected to provide 6 % of Rwanda’s energy needs.  Chaim Motzen, Managing Director and Co-founder of Gigawatt Global Ltd, told Ventures Africa that the project was testament to the viability of financing and building large utility-scale solar in Africa.

In Ghana, plans are under-way for the Sankana project; Home Energy Africa Ltd are hoping to construct a 100 MW project in the Nadowli-Kaleo district by 2016. Ghana has already seen huge investments in utility-scale solar projects including the Nzema Solar Power Plant expected to be one of the largest in the world, report Ventures Africa.

The increased positivity around African solar power is due largely to rapidly improving technology and cost efficiency. The International Energy Agency predict a huge increase in African solar projects, for both residential and commercial uses, and the World Energy Outlook 2014 states that by 2040 renewable energy is expected to account for 45% of power generation capacity across the continent.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Power: Cameroon
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue 1, Pp.20722-20725

Power: Egypt
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue 12, Pp.20686A- 20689C

World Energy Outlook 2014 – Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa Today
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue 10, Pp.20615A-20615B

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Rwanda aims to become a hub for African cyclists

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Team Karisimbi’s Valens Ndayisenga has become the first Rwandan ever to win the annual Tour of Rwanda cycling competition.

Tour of Rwanda winner Valens Ndayisenga (Picture: Rwanda Cycling Federation)

Tour of Rwanda winner Valens Ndayisenga (Picture: Rwanda Cycling Federation)

The 20-year old romped to victory after a consistent display over the seven stages of the tour. Thousands of Rwandans who turned up to watch the finish in Amahoro National Stadium. saw him triumph ahead of his country mate Jean Bosco Nsengimana, who put in an equally solid display.

Ndayisenga, who began the 7th stage with 1 minute and 27 seconds between him and his closest foreign competitor, finished the day in 6th position, enough for him to retain the coveted jersey with 58 seconds ahead of Nsengimana.

Cycling in Rwanda, as in the rest of Africa, is growing as a sport, and the Tour of Rwanda was put on the international calendar in 2009. Rwanda is known as the land of “a thousand hills”, and experts say the tour of is one of the toughest races in Africa, and is gradually gaining a place as a key race on the continent. The Tour covers over 934km (580 miles) and climbs some 19,500m (4,000ft) with peaks rising to 2,500m 8,200ft.

American Jonathan Boyer became the first coach of Team Rwanda in 2006. “We started with five riders and five-speed cycles from the 1980s, but most of the gears were not working, they were wrecks,” Boyer explains.

Cycling in Rwanda “grows gradually,” said Boyer, explaining that many racers are former bicycle taxi drivers, who transport of people and goods, building strong muscles pedalling up the country’s rolling hills.

The Rwanda Cycling Federation has around a hundred members. “Cycling in Rwanda is still very young,” said federation president Aimable Bayingana. “We don’t really have a long history of cycling, we are building the sport, evolving at the same time as the Tour of Rwanda.”

In June, the country opened a training centre in the northern town of Musanze with modern equipment, which is hoped to become a regional training centre for African cycling.

The race’s reputation is growing, with 14 teams taking part in the 2014 Tour, and participating cyclists from across the continent – including Algeria, Burundi, Morocco, Eritrea, Ethiopia – as well as from Europe too. Organisers estimate over two million spectators will see the race, nearly a fifth of Rwanda’s 11m population.

Yves Beau from the team Bike says the sport is becoming more organised with increasing number of competitions held each year across the continent.

But while at present African cyclists are sometimes hampered by a lack of often expensive kit and the best cycles, Beau believes things will improve in the future. Boyer points not only to Rwanda, but to Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have a large pool of talent, although tapping that will require serious training and investment.

For many Rwandan cyclists, it goes beyond just the sport, providing a different image of the country abroad than just the memories of the 1994 genocide.

Head over to the Tour of Rwanda’s official website to find out more about the race.

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