Researching stories in Rwanda

Visiting the market in Kigali.
2019-07-22 11:43:00

Thanks to generous funding from the MacMillan Center at Yale, I had the opportunity to travel to Kigali, Rwanda, to do research for some articles I will be writing. While there, I found that there was absolutely no lack of exciting things to report on in the land of a thousand hills.

The majority of my time was spent chasing stories – and I learned a tremendous amount about how to balance research and preparation with leaving myself open to new experiences and impromptu conversations.

While in Rwanda, I was able to visit Zipline, a start-up that delivers blood and blood-products to hospital by drone. Zipline drew my attention as an organization with the potential to grow rapidly and have dramatic social benefits. In Rwanda, there has been a recent push to build newer hospitals to improve healthcare delivery. However, those hospitals are still frequently connected by dirt roads that are long and difficult to navigate, especially during the rainy season. This means that it can be difficult to get medical supplies to these hospitals in emergency situations – especially blood, because it is difficult to predict how much will be needed and because it has strict storage requirements. Zipline has been using drone delivery services to cut down on the time it takes to get blood to hospitals around Rwanda in case of emergency. While they face the issue of the expensive cost the drones bring, especially compared to cars and motorcycles that can make larger deliveries, they have helped tremendously in emergency situations – when the economics of blood delivery changes.

Another incredible opportunity I had was witnessing firsthand the nascent domestic textile and clothing industry in Rwanda. While second-hand and imported clothing has dominated Rwanda in the past, recent policy changes and tariffs have made way for new entrepreneurs that make clothing locally, with a focus on Rwandan traditions.

When I wasn’t hunting down interviews, I was excited to explore a new city; I found that the best way to navigate was on the motorcycle-taxis that populate every street. Before I travelled to the country, I had heard that no one can visit Rwanda just once – and now I certainly understand why.

Written by Deena Mousa, Yale College, Class of 2020.