There is no doubt that the Rwanda private sector is weak and does not play its full role. In Rwanda, the government is expected to do everything, pay for everything, regulate everything. One can even argue that the voluntary sector is larger and more vocal than the private sector.
There are a number of reasons given for the weakness of our private sector; Rwandans not being entrepreneurial, our long period of instability before and after the genocide, structural problems, fuel prices, lack of credit, too many monopolies, and many more.
Others say the private sector is strong but has to be brought out of the black economy.
The private sector is supposed to be represented by the Private Sector Federation (PSF), and yet after numerous attempts I failed to get through to them. An organisation that is meant to communicate on behalf of the private sector is without a communication director or anyone willing to talk on their behalf.
If you ask the average local trader just what function the private sector federation performs and they will point to the numerous stickers they have placed in all shops.
When it comes to advocacy on behalf of the private sector they have been nowhere to be seen. They never advocate for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, more incentives for business. Instead they claim responsibility for all government reforms.
The PSF is a victim of constant restructuring and reintegration, an insular institution that has withdrawn within itself.
I would argue that since the formation of RDB, the PSF has lacked direction. It no longer knows what its purpose is because RDB are better placed to deliver advocacy and services.
The question is how can PSF connect with Mateus and Gatsata, to move from producing dry policy to truly interacting in real time to the Rwanda economy. They would be perfectly placed to produce up to date stats on economic indicators but they don’t.
The PSF has to redefine its outlook, to decide what it stands for. Are they a members club for executives, or an advocate for economic reforms?
It is true to say that the PSF has been involved with most of the negotiations into EAC integration. They have been focussed on making the integration work for Rwandan companies.
In the time they were negotiating in the EAC their profile dropped in Rwanda, exactly during a time when they should have been more active.
Another factor is that PSF is divided into so many departments that one wonders how they integrate, there are nine different chambers to add to this complicated structure.
At this time when lateral integration is crucial we need to see a new structure for PSF, more streamlined, more connected to business and above all more vocal that it is at the moment.
They are all away on a retreat, let us hope they come up with a convincing strategy to awaken the Rwanda private sector.