Last week, Ambassador Peter Andrew Guy Sinon, the Executive Director of African Development Bank (ADB) representing Eritea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda was on a field trip in the Rwanda. In an inclusive interview with Business Time’s Berna Namata, he talks about his trip. Below are excerpts;
Qn: Briefly talk about your visit to Rwanda?
This time I have gone to my own country Seychelles, Uganda, Kenya (stop over) and then Rwanda.
We have just discussed Rwanda’s Country Portfolio Review report at the board level and other countries in the region.
And this country’s portfolio is one of the best that we have reviewed this year. Project implementation in Rwanda has been very good, because there are results on the ground to show the success.
I have been on ground, talked to beneficiaries of several projects and most of them are satisfied with the programmes. I have found a spirit of regional integration very firm on the ground in EAC countries.
I find that Rwanda is actually very much focused on regional integration, in fact pushing for it, not afraid of competition and that has been affirmed by my conversations with several ministers during my visit.
This is very encouraging because it shows that Rwanda wants to take off, wants to have better access to ports for its imports and exports.
Regional integration will ease doing business for Rwanda as a landlocked country.
I was impressed by economic performance - we are now in the financial crisis, all kinds of crisis – food, fuel and the credit crunch but Rwanda is still registering a very commendable growth rate.
Rwanda is on the move and its growth rate is higher than the population growth rate. This is a good indication that the country is about to take off.
I also realized that the country is much focused. It has a strategic plan. Government has identified where Rwanda has got a comparative advantage—service sector and invested there.
Qn: What are some of the challenges you identified?
A country like Rwanda, the greatest challenge which is also potential is private sector development.
The word is beginning to come out that Rwanda is a place for doing business. When foreigners see that, it is the biggest indicator to say that is the place to go because the process of doing business has been made easy.
The reforms will attract genuine investors, because you have prepared the ground.
Unfortunately, his is not the same in some many countries including Seychelles my own country and this is a big challenge for the Bank (ADB).
Infrastructure remains a challenge forever – as a land locked country, you need to export, import, and you need a good network of roads, railways and ports that operate effectively.
This is why regional integration is very important so that even as a landlocked country, you can have a say on what happens at Mombasa Port.
I also think that the private sector if well harnessed can resolve some of the infrastructure bottle necks.
Government does not have to do everything. There are some challenges that can not be resolved by government and what the government here is doing is to create an enabling environment for the private sector.
Qn: Rwanda’s Vision 2020 stresses the importance of the private sector – as an engine of economic growth. What needs to be done to have local investors become proactive in the economy?
There is need to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship in the country. The potential entrepreneurs also need access to funds.
The challenge is to train your people so that when foreign investors come, they can easily create partnerships with them.
It is a common practice when foreign investors come; they need somebody that will guide them but that somebody has to be professional. That is what Rwanda should be lining up.
Entrepreneurs who get started slowly but are available to be a partner of a bigger investor that comes in. They should have the same work ethics as what I have seen in the public sector here.
The government should be able to regulate this because if they find trustworthy partners they will be able to invest more in the country.
Again, the business community has to be organized through associations such as Chamber of Commerce and other business associations. They can use such forums to discuss challenges, find solutions and share
experiences and ideas.
They need to organize themselves, they need to know that they are landlocked and reach out and that is a further challenge for them.
The private sector should not think too small. There is a whole world out there. Let them reach out and create partnerships- am not talking about going to Japan, instead of go to Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.
Qn: Going back to the role of regional integration, what needs to be done to make it more successful?
Exactly what is being done now – building on efforts in Customs Union and Common Market – to actually agree to get into a Customs Union is a difficult issue.
Before a Customs Union, the other stages like creating a free trade area - there is half commitment because there are still some restrictions imposed by governments.
A fully fledged Customs Union means goods will flow freely across borders.
Soon we probably go to the extent of saying we have the same immigration rules like in the European Union.
The oldest Customs Union was established in Southern Africa and it has been there and shared receipts, some trouble sometimes, it is difficult but the EAC has made progress. Definitely there are going to be some winners and losers.
In some sectors there some who are more ready than others but you will never have a time when everybody is ready. If you reach that time, there is no more competition yet competition will always exist.
Countries should identify where they have comparative advantage and specialize. Do what you do best and prosper.
Rwanda is already doing that in ICT and service sector, it is not for fun. For instance the One Laptop per Child project - the children who have access to computers now, will be the bankers of tomorrow.
The vision is there, EAC is on track. There is something boiling in the region and hopefully it is going to erupt in a good way.
Hopefully it will erupt with an economic boom, economic dynamism and once the railways are working, the roads, ICT are there, and this is the future generation that will change the perception that the World
has on Africa. And it is beginning now.
Qn: Looking ahead, what is the way forward in terms of the relationship between ADB and Rwanda?
The future is bright. If the team that I see at our field office and the authorities that I have met continue to collaborate in the same spirit as today, then it is a bright future.
We have a paper coming up that will look at experiences of the current 22 operating field offices to learn from experiences and decide on the way forward.
According to what I have seen and read about Rwanda, it is the next Switzerland of Africa because it has a clear Vision for development. It has vision to train its people and provide the best services on the continent.
This country will get there; I give it another 5 -10 years. If it keeps on track goes into ICT, trains its people, and doing its best to invest, I have no doubt that it will get there.