Why our own ‘Imihigo’ outshines World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’

I will start by congratulating this nation for the remarkable performance in the 2010 World Bank Doing Business Report. Rwanda ranking as top reformer in the world, and the first time for a Sub-Saharan African economy, is something worth popping champagne for.
Arthur Asiimwe
Arthur Asiimwe

I will start by congratulating this nation for the remarkable performance in the 2010 World Bank Doing Business Report.
Rwanda ranking as top reformer in the world, and the first time for a Sub-Saharan African economy, is something worth popping champagne for.

Since 2006, when the World Bank started ranking Rwanda in this report, the nation has steadily ascended the radar due to a wide range of reforms that we all know about.   

Interestingly, despite the challenges presented by the financial crisis, the number of reforms hit a record level this year, with Rwanda making seven distinct reforms.

For Rwanda to achieve this outstanding ranking, it surely shows one thing; that the nation’s good governance canons are paying off dividends. 

But while others toast to the success of this remarkable achievement, I will keep my toast for another day. Why? Simply because of two reasons:

First, because we in the media are at times so cynical and driven by ‘interests,’ I thought that for the first time, the international media will write a success story on Rwanda without using the words genocide, slaughter, torn apart, mayhem--- name it.

To my dismay, no wire story missed these words. Bloomberg, Washington Post and major wire networks spoke of the poverty stricken and a nation torn apart by 1994 genocide that has emerged as a top reformer.

Why tag such an accomplishment to genocide? Yes, I know of the need to put things in perspective and context, but equally where a struggling nation is making remarkable strides, there’s no need of toning down its success by juxtaposing progress with an ugly past.

How many times is Germany (which Rwanda beat by 40 points in the report) referred to a as Nazi Germany? Or how many times does the word holocaust appear on an Israel business story?

It does this nation no success by appreciating its success through a genocide mirror. It simply spoils the broth because investors for whom such a report is made, simply drawback upon reading these inept words.

The second reason I will postpone my toast, is that the achievements that this report singles out are a mere drop in the ocean. Rwanda has achieved a lot more.

Today, the culture should be that we treat such international recognitions as routine---something that should not surprise anyone.

Added to this, is that I think the reforms that our own home grown ‘Imihigo’ or performance contracts, have ushered in, far outweigh what we see in ‘Doing business’ report.

In fact, the key difference between ‘Doing Business’ report and Imihigo is that one is foreign imposed while the other is a domestic initiative.  Otherwise the two are twin-sisters.
But unlike ‘Doing Business,’ Imihigo is cross-cutting.

This home-grown initiative does not only look at the business side of things. Instead it sets targets across the board in all sectors.

Imihigo is more result-oriented because organizations must file annual action plans and reports, and they’re continually reminded to align their plans with the government’s programmes.

This initiative is executed and evaluated by ourselves and not dictated from Western capitals. It calls for active participation of all Rwandans.

And above all, it’s realistic because we set our own targets depending on the prevailing circumstances and because it’s home-grown, we feel part of it.

Districts out-compete each other on building terraces, enlisting population to join Mutuelle de santé, planting more coffee trees, providing enough mosquito nets, immunising infants, building classrooms, clinics and so on.

This is why I would rather pop champagne for Nyamagabe district than the ‘Doing Business’ report. Simply this initiative has had a direct bearing on our population.

It has exerted pressure on our local leaders to embrace the true virtues of good governance with accountability at the helm.

At the end of the day, we pride in our achievements because they are not imposed on us but rather out of our own sweat.

In fact what we should be looking at now is how to stretch these performance contracts across all boundaries. They should not only be a thing for the public sector. It could take the form of private, public partnership.

For example, MTN, Rwandatel and the new kids on the bloc, TIGO, could sign annual imihigo with the regulatory agency. Private newspapers, radios and television stations could do the same with their regulatory body.

Private Sector Federation could cluster different businesses and sign performance contracts with members of each cluster.

All we need is an evaluation at the end of each year, just like the annual mayors’ kwesa imihigo.  

In short, much as we pride in the excellent performance in this year’s ‘Doing Business’ report’, our own Imihigo offers the best vehicle for extensive reforms. The World Bank report can only come to supplement it.

arthur.asiimwe@gmail.com

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