The 2023 Kwibuka Cup came to a conclusion yesterday with hosts Rwanda beating Uganda by six wickets in the final after a double round-robin stage that also involved Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana.

The Kwibuka Cup is played in remembrance of the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Initially a tournament for women's teams from East Africa, it expanded to cover teams across Africa in 2019 and in 2022 included teams from outside Africa for the first time in the shape of Brazil and Germany. It has secured itself a position as one of the most prestigious non-ICC tournaments in women's cricket.

Played annually since 2014, save a break in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rwanda had never before won the event until their victory yesterday.

The victory caps a remarkable rise for women's cricket in Rwanda. Their international debut came almost 15 years ago in December 2008 in the one-day format. It was a brusing debut, being bowled out for 15 and losing by 276 runs. The remaining three matches in the tournament went similarly, scoring 60 and losing by 336 runs in their second, scoring 24 and losing by 253 runs in their third and scoring 34 and losing by 8 wickets in their fourth.

It's easy to laugh, mock or otherwise have a go at teams that get bowled out for low scores. We saw this during the 2019 Kwibuka tournament - the first to carry T20I status - when Rwanda themselves bowled Mali out for jus six, Tanzania bowled them out for 11 and Uganda scored 314 against them and bowled them out for 10.

Those results caused otherwise perfectly intelligent people to write things like "Mali playing cricket is great, but should it count as an international?", or pompously proclaim things like "I call on the ICC to reverse its decision, and retain international status only for the top tier of competition". More recently a tweet from the Association of Cricket Statiscians and Historians called for records lists to be limited to "proper teams only" before it was deleted after intervention from more sensible members of the organisation.

It's a common refrain whenever an associate gets thrashed. The matches shouldn't count. It's not a real record. Should these teams be allowed to play? Won't someone please think of the c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ record books.

But every team has to start somewhere. Teams that get thrashed and bowled out for low scores can turn into one of the top associate sides. This is perhaps best indicated by the team that bowled Rwanda out for 15 back in 2008 - Uganda, the very same team that they beat in yesterday's final.

Another example of cricket's rise in Rwanda is the reaction of the crowd - hundreds strong at the Gahanga Stadium - who staged a pitch invasion, carrying the Rwandan players off on their shoulders. The Gahanga Stadium itself has hosted over 100 T20Is (men's and women's combined) in the last two years.

Cricket is booming in Africa, with the region very much developing as a whole. Teams in the region play each other a lot, and have started making waves at global events - during the inagural Women's Under-19 World Cup this year, Rwanda beat full members Zimbabwe and West Indies in the tournament proper, and Ireland during warm-ups.

Notably in Rwanda, this growth in cricket is happening in a country with no history of British colonisation. Outside of Africa some of the best stories in women's associate cricket come from Thailand and Brazil, also countries that were never part of the British Empire. This is new territory for cricket, which has so often been closely linked with with the former British Empire, including much of the bad such an association brings.

This is where those at the ICC who claim to want to grow the game should be targetting their investment. Not throwing money at already wealthy full member boards, but investing in markets that have a real chance of growing cricket's footprint in the years to come. There is little growth to be had in India, England, Australia, etc but there is major growth to be had in Rwanda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and beyond Africa in Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Thailand.

Making fun of teams that get bowled out for very low totals is easy. A cheap way for hack writers and pricks on Twitter to get attention. Offering support and investment into developing cricket in these countries is hard, but ultimately rewarding. The rise of Rwandan women's cricket from getting bowled out for 15 to beating full members at youth World Cups and winning one of the most prestiguious women's tournaments outside of ICC events is testament to that.