The next few years are critical for Rwanda’s development agenda, and the only way to be successful is by not doing business as usual, a point consistently hammered home by President Kagame.
Unfortunately, a cross-section of Rwandan leaders seems content with the status quo, particularly at the decentralized levels, where I believe the potential to accelerate Rwanda’s success truly lies.
Leaders at a decentralised level are increasingly disappointing, and the high turnover is a clear indication of this. The good in this is that corrupt officials are repeatedly held accountable for their wrong deeds.
The bad is that it slows down the development process that Rwanda has subscribed to, and indicates the volume of corruption occurring at these levels.
In order for Rwanda to register the success that all of its people deserve, decentralized level authorities should stop failing the masses they lead, and make conscious choices which are focused on community development.
The problem, it would seem, is inappropriate prioritization and indicators of success.
For example, how does a mayor justify his District being the poorest and having the lowest calorie intake (indicating malnutrition among his population), yet does not invest in improved farming techniques?
Many will argue limited budget, but is it honestly the case, or simply inappropriate financial prioritization?
Another crucial factor hindering development is the sheer number of meetings these leaders attend; this is much wasted talk time with little action afterward. Furthermore, the number of reports they have to prepare is unimaginable– making me wonder when they ever meet their constituents.
I suggest that part of the imihigo process should be to reward the District with the least meetings and reporting, thus setting our local leaders’ eyes toward visible action, not talk and paperwork!
Adding on to this is the fact that despite cooperatives being able to mobilize large amounts of money, they are not graduating to the next level – this is largely a failure by the local authorities.
A majority of the cooperatives are predominantly on the production end of the value-chain, and these leaders sit and make noise about how many cooperatives they have registered instead of bragging about how many cooperatives have successfully been translated into big businesses; this again makes me question the leaders’ priorities, and the indicators of their success we as a nation have set for them.
My disappointment lies in the fact that the decentralization process was designed to accelerate development, but the leaders that have been given these responsibilities cast doubt on the effectiveness of this approach, the above examples are cases in point.
At the same time, the people who elect these leaders should accept some blame; I question to what level voters inform themselves on the candidates before voting.
I have hope that more informed voters would elect more qualified candidates, and the days of weak leadership are slowly coming to an end.
I am not saying that it is doom and gloom in Rwanda, but I want to emphasize that we must fight the status quo by ensuring that our leaders’ priorities are on track, and that we have set them appropriate indicators for their success, thus driving them in the right direction.
If not our development agenda will suffer a major blow.
The author is based in Singapore where he is in graduate school.