In an effort to bring attention to great beauty and potential of the region, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) have conducted a tour of Lake Kivu intending to show investors the assets of the lake for tourism.
Rudiger Knospe, a consultant with government, has developed a sub-master plan calling for more restaurants, swimming pools, conference rooms, and hotels in the five districts bordering the lake in Western Province: Rubavu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke and Rusizi.
According to the master plan, Rubavu district is zoned large-scale hotel and tourist attractions, targeting mainly international tourists visiting the nearby mountain gorillas, Rwanda's main tourist attraction. Rubavu also will use its hot springs as an asset for pumping water to swimming pools.
Karongi district is designed to have a golf resort hotel, perfect for its landscape. Rutsiro is slotted to develop activities around coffee and tea as well as bicycle paths to create a rest center for tourists along Congo Nile trail.
Francois Kanimba, Minister of Trade and Industry, said that Lake Kivu and the Western Province have many opportunities for tourism that have not yet been tapped.
"Tourism opportunities at lake Kivu are many. We have not yet been able to exploit them," he said.
Minister Kanimba said that the implementation of such a plan needs investment from a variety of sources. Calling upon the citizens in the lake region to spearhead development of their local economies, he indicated that investment at the lake is not the responsibility of foreigners, but the local citizens to take on themselves.
"Residents must be ready to start activities and be ready to receive investors," he said, indicating that the opportunities are for all levels of investments including big investors, medium and SMEs.
Kanimba requested the residents near the lake to think about possible viable businesses to increase the tourism industry, encouraging them to add to the government's investment plan and think beyond the traditional agriculture activities that people now make a living from.
However, some people worry that the master plan will displace local residents for the benefit of investors.
"There is no other way [to complete this master plan], we are going to be pushed away to let rich persons do their business. We start worrying about where we will be going," said a resident of Maraba sector in Karongi district.
His neighbor Jean Uwimana resides on a hill that has been designated for a golf course and derives their living from farming. "This is our land to cultivate," he said.
No doubt, residents in Western Province will undergo dramatic changes in lifestyle, but Celestin Kabahizi, governor of Western Province, says that increased tourism will ultimately benefit local residents more than subsistence agriculture practiced now.
"The activities will create jobs to local residents where they can earn more than what they used to collect from their agriculture," he said.
Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister of Natural Resources urged the planners and developers to consider the environmental aspects of the lake and the surrounding hills, fearing that increased development will contribute to the pollution of lake and river waters.
While some points remain debatable, Minister Kanimba said the master plan will take all concerns into consideration and will have to be confirmed by the cabinet before going into place.
Rica Rwigamba, head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, says that Rwanda needs to increase its tourism revenues from $282 million last year to $860 million in 2017.
Major assets for tourism attractions of Rwanda are Virunga National Park, mainly thanks to the presence of mountain gorilla, Akagera National Park, natural forests like Gishwati, Nyungwe and Mukura, as well as Lake Kivu.