Brigit Helms’ book makes case for Rwanda’s economic systems

Helms speaks during the launch of her book in Rwanda this week. / Courtesy

Brigit Helms, the Vice President of Technical Services at DAI, a global organisation that supports development programmes across 150 countries, has said that Rwanda is among a few developing countries that have built economic systems that have promoted inclusion.

This, she said, has enabled lifting millions of people from poverty, dramatically.

She was officially launching her latest book dubbed “Access for All: Building Inclusive Economic Systems” in Kigali, this week.

“It seems things get done here [in Rwanda],” the American author noted at the official launch at which she discussed the content of her book in depth with a group of entrepreneurs, development organisations and government officials.

Helms highlighted that she particularly dedicated five pages in her book to talking about Rwanda’s work in establishing pro-inclusion policies and programmes that enabled significant shifts in addressing poverty.

“I think Rwanda is the only country that has more than five pages in my book because of the many examples that I picked from Rwanda which other developing countries could learn from,” Helms said.

The former senior expert at McKinsey & Company, who has more than 30 years of experience in finding innovative approaches to financial inclusion and seeking enterprise and marked-based solutions, said that Rwanda has proved that through good leadership, it is possible to include people at the bottom of the pyramid in the development process without leaving anybody behind.

“The country is safe and it has improved on many indicators such as doing business, attracting investment and ensuring access to basic services for all. I can say that every time you look at what Rwanda is doing, you get a feeling that the Government of Rwanda has really been doing a lot,” Helms said.

She elaborately cites ways through which governments and the development community can engage to build inclusive economic systems, some of which she argues, Rwanda has managed to get it right for the last few years.

In the 353-page book which focuses on how developing countries can build inclusive economic systems together with development partners, she highlighted the example of Rwanda which she said has taken a comprehensive approach to policy reform and formulation.

“Implementing policies that leveled the playing field, shrewdly tilting the playing field in the desired direction, and even occasionally taking control of key economic functions allowed Rwanda to jump more than 100 places in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings between 2008 and 2015,” an excerpt from Helms book reads.

In the book, the author also highlights a number of initiatives and national priorities started by the Government of Rwanda including the Vision 2020 among others, which have seen the country triple its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from $216 per person in 2000 to $703 in 2016, as well as reforms that tremendously improved doing business.

The book also points to a number of pro-financial inclusion policies and e-Government services which have ensured that people equitably have access to services.

With a high percentage of the people with Identity Cards (87 percent) being able to open accounts or register simcards to use for mobile money transactions, Rwanda has been able to achieve financial inclusion at the level of 89 percent since 2016. The growth is attributed to mobile money transactions.

The author also mentions Rwanda as the first country to adopt performance standards for drones in 2018 which saw the Rwandan government collaborate with a Silicon Valley startup Zipline to start delivering blood and medicine to patients in far-flung parts of the country.

Helms argued that the global community has an unprecedented opportunity and a moral imperative to develop, test and scale new business models to transform economies and more meaningfully include those currently excluded andundeserved.

More so, she pointed to the private sector as having a “Tsunami of Money” that can be tapped to lift large swaths of people who have been left out, despite decreasing levels of global poverty and inequality over the last few decades.