Accountable governance: taking stock of 11th Leadership Retreat

RWANDA’S ANNUAL National Leadership Retreat is fundamentally different from every preceding related event both in form and content, for they always handle issues of national interest that are critical at the moment and for the immediate future. 

RWANDA’S ANNUAL National Leadership Retreat is fundamentally different from every preceding related event both in form and content, for they always handle issues of national interest that are critical at the moment and for the immediate future. 

National issues are debated in the most democratic environment one can imagine, and consensus formed on the way forward.

However, the latest retreat was quite unique. It came at a time we are faced with unique challenges as a nation associated with the economic targets we have set for ourselves, as well as social transformation this country has set out to achieve.

Economic targets 

That we have set our GDP growth rate at 11.5 per cent by 2017 may seem wishful/guess estimate to economic pessimists.

Such growth will essentially transform our country fundamentally, for this simply means doubling (our current GDP growth of 6.6 per cent) our stock of goods and services over the period to 2017. 

This also means, in principal, that, the welfare/standards of living of Rwandans will equally double. Simply put, every Rwandan will be better off two-fold their current welfare status. 

Under normal circumstances, however, such high targets are attained if a country goes through unprecedented transformative outcomes such as discoveries of high value natural resources e.g. oil or other mineral deposits for that matter. 

Nevertheless, it is possible to attain such high growth rates if our agro, industrial as well as service sectors turn around fundamentally, so much so that they grow at unprecedented levels over the intervening period, which is again possible if our transformational leadership aligns our social/human capital to this end. 

Now, this is the daunting challenge we face as a country, and one we must overcome/achieve. This was central to the 11th leadership retreat in Gabiro. 

Exemplary leadership 

The difference in the recent retreat and one which was felt by all present is largely the manner and approach with which President Paul Kagame chaired it. 

His style caught many leaders unawares with regard to their respective sectors’ contribution toward the bigger goal of attaining GDP growth of 11.5 per cent. 

It was not a mere wake-up call with regard to the challenges ahead, it was a kind of evaluation for many and their inherent challenges to stand-up to these high targets whether by way of their capacities to do so, or the structures they have set up.

The call was strong and focused and the massage too strong to ignore. The President called for change of leaders’ mindset if they are to stand up to the challenges ahead.  

Nonetheless, for such challenges to be overcome, our country and indeed institutions will also need to undergo further reforms, for our current structures cannot certainly deliver the outcomes intended to register the 11.5 per cent growth rate target in their current form. 

And although the massage was received and internalised by the leaders – at least judging from their reactions – the same message will have to be cascaded to all Rwandans as well as our development partners and friends, a daunting task. 

Everyone has to be onboard if we are to attain our ambitious vision. It is attainable. It is achievable, if only it is internalised and owned by all.

Transformational leadership 

The manner/passion with which President Paul Kagame has handled our national issues and challenges, be they in retreats or elsewhere in our country, is typical of a CEO in a corporate environment who knows very well that, shareholders (in our case Rwandans) will at the end of the financial year expect better returns (in our case GDP) to their investments, much better than similar companies or those in the same industry/environment (in our case neighbouring countries). 

But for such a CEO to succeed, he has to equally have transformational managers (in our case Ministers and other high ranking officials). The retreat was meant to garner the support of, and transform the mindset of some of our political leaders used to sweet words, but not sweet deeds.  

The process has stated, and is going to be long and tough. 

Empirical evidence

Cukierman et al., (1994, 2004) argues that, “for a country’s development to be sustainable, requires developmental leaders of high caliber who will then maintain such a process for at least three decades, after which it will be self propelling, except for management of cyclic shocks”. 

Such research holds that, the political climate created such levels of certainty that, development agents both local and foreign, were able to forecast and plan long-term, to the extent that, these economies developed at unprecedented levels.

For us the endowment of transformational/exemplary leadership by President Paul Kagame is the only resource we can count on to achieve a double digit growth without the discovery of precious minerals.

To be continued…

The writer is an economist and financial expert.


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