Rwanda – A new model for Africa’s development

Looking at the findings of the 2010 World Bank, ‘Doing Business Report’, one can only conclude that Rwanda has outdone the world once again.

Looking at the findings of the 2010 World Bank, ‘Doing Business Report’, one can only conclude that Rwanda has outdone the world once again.

The country has been ranked a top reformer world-wide jumping 76 places in the ease of doing business rankings from position 143 last year to a double digit 67, this year.

Among some of the indicators used, include; starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, trading across borders, paying taxes and enforcing contracts – these fall under the time and motion indicators.

The other category scoring indicators (legal indicators), looks at employing workers, getting credit, protecting investors and closing business.

However, for any country to succeed in satisfying the above, like Rwanda has done, it has to create the necessary conditions and enabling environment, centering on governance, rule of law and political stability.

Not many would have ever imagined that a ‘small African country’, with a brutal past history of decades of political tyranny and exclusion, culminating in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, would today emerge, stand tall leading the way in some of the most far reaching reforms.

It is incisive at this point to be reminded of the historical context that Rwanda, 15 years ago was an empty shell, Genocide forces having looted the treasury, with a citizenry gripped by fear and deep trauma.

The leadership under President Paul Kagame, embarked on the insurmountable task of rescuing the country out of this historical quandary, resuscitating a nation many had written off their history books.

It is ironic that today, this leadership stands tall in Sub-Saharan Africa, looking with triumph at a global community that did nothing to stop the mayhem, suffering, and loss of life to winning accolades from some of the toughest financial institutions in the form of the World Bank. 

In short, as former British Prime-Minister, Tony Blair summed up in response to the Doing Business Report  – “Anyone considering where to invest should go to Rwanda and see the hugely significant progress President Kagame’s government has made in recent years.

With his zero tolerance approach to corruption, extra protection for investors and sustained economic growth, investors should sit up and take note of this African success story.”

Rwanda is refusing to be defined in the same old context most developing countries, especially those emerging out of conflicts, have often been ‘mischaracterized’  as lacking the conditions necessary to emerge out of poverty.

The order of the day for many of these remains, brutal repression and kleptocracy, as ruling elites with very little accountability plunder national resources like there is no tomorrow.

In these countries the penalty for any public official who steals is simply being moved to another ministry – in Rwanda tight anti-corruption laws mean you serve your time behind bars.

For instance, in following basic tenets of governance and accountability, decentralisation of local government has meant that accountability starts at the very lowest cell level to the central government itself, with the incentives being in performance based contracts.

In national development Rwanda has focused on areas where she is competitive and excelled in those, among these being the huge investment in ICT, driven by a vision towards a knowledge based economy.

In social services by adopting the Mutuelle de Sante, a community based health insurance scheme, citizens have universal access to affordable health-care. And many more reforms in the education sector.

This is the investment in people which President Kagame, reminded delegates in his address to the 59th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa, weeks ago: “Yes, money is essential for achieving development objectives, but greater challenges lie elsewhere no amount of material and financial resources can transform a nation without a clear political and policy purpose.”

Consequently, in looking at Rwanda’s success story one cannot help but proffer analysis within a broader context that is today shaping our politics both locally and globally, from the global recession to increased challenges for Africa’s leadership, mainly to do with poverty eradication.

In global discourse policy-makers have for decades sought solutions to poverty eradication and wealth creation in developing countries.

Various schools of thought emerging with proposals, on how developing countries can deal with decade old problems of poverty and under-development.

Against a back-ground of theorists across board, attributing Africa’s endemic poverty and suffering to-- the colonial legacy, rapid globalization, dictatorship, and rampant corruption.

Rwanda has stood the test in challenging each of these negative aspects head-on.

Many have sought a model for development that moves beyond theory for Africa’s suffering masses, to the practical reality of having food on their tables, medicine in hospitals and books in schools.

This background makes the recent results of the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, exciting for developing countries. A new model for Africa’s development is born, not imported from any foreign land, but developed by her esteemed sons and daughters, on the Rwandan soil.

Rwanda has struck the crucial balance between foreign aid, investment promotion and her home-grown goal for national development as outlined in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).

Rwanda in the different policy initiatives is asserting herself as a global player, not through narrow policy initiatives, but a broad spectrum that are result oriented.

If the main challenge for Africa has been the lack of a model for development, then perhaps this formerly misnamed ‘tiny central African country,’ provides that model.

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