Molly Rwigamba is the Acting CEO of Private Sector Federation (PSF) the umbrella body for the country’s private sector. Her appointment comes after PSF has been undertaking some restructuring exercise whose key thrust was to it make more relevant to the changing needs of its members .In this exclusive interview Rwigamba talks to The New Times’ Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah about this broad restructuring programmes as well as other issues surrounding her new appointment.
When Mr.Emmanuel Hategeka left did he leave behind a succession plan?
I will give you an overview in terms of how my predecessor has prepared this institution for succession which is part of continuity.
The most important part has been that Mr.Hategeka helped develop a clear strategic plan for this institution to enable it guide its growth path over time. This plan is based on certain pillars.
A key pillar being advocacy which is our core business. The next is capacity building.Business development and growth of our new members are the others. We also double up as an employer’s organization.
These strategic pillars have been clearly elaborated on in terms of how they can be carried forward in terms of implementation. Along with elaboration of a road map of implementing this strategy Mr.Hategeka is credited with getting on board very competent team members capable of carrying out these demanding tasks.
I must add that he had been able to mentor this team for even more demanding roles in the future should they be called up to do so. Systems and procedures are in place to ensure continuity. All these elaborate programmes point out that continuity has been planned for.
Can you elaborate more on the fact that PSF was in the news undertaking some restructuring exercises sometime late last year?
PSF was restructured for two main reasons. One was to make it more relevant to its stakeholders in this case the business community which it serves. More relevant in terms of making it more effective and more efficient.
Number one was to restructure operations within the frameworks of available budgets. As you are aware towards the end of last year it was the peak of the global financial crisis.
Most of our sources of funding especially the donors down scaled their commitments. We had to respond accordingly too. Government also cut down its support to PSF by about 50%.Naturally we had to sit down with an intention of responding to these realities.
So we looked at what needed to be down scaled. We looked at how we could do that while keeping ourselves relevant to our mandate.
This we did after carrying out an audit of staff output in which those who did not really stand up to certain benchmarks had to be rendered redundant for instance. The key thrust was to cut costs while still focussing on our mandate.
This exercise is still ongoing or it has ended?
It had ended last year. However we are also looking at how we can extend our services through channels such as our associations.
BDS-Business Development Services as an outreach component of your mandate was a very good initiative. But you chose to scale it down.
I would not say that we chose to close down the BDS. What I want to say is that it is only proper to put the record straight for the media. We had 17 BDS centers spread out all over the country.
Each of these BDS had about three to four staff members. As management we thought that that kind of approach was not sustainable. We did an in-depth audit and found that some of them were not actually up the tasks they were assigned.
Clearly we had to do something. Remember that we were also cutting down our costs by looking at areas that were not really serving our call.
What I mean is that when we looked at expenditures of these BDS and their outputs we found that there was some mismatch.
Our response was to change the approach. This new approach is more effective and more sustainable. We launched it three weeks ago. We are now going to have what we are calling BDS Consultants.
How does this new system work?
These consultants are now operational in 22 districts. As we speak there is a team that is ensuring that this new system has support it requires to execute on its new assignment. In return the consultants are expected to render services at a subsidized rate.
However they will be running under the umbrella of the PSF but as independent consultants. Now that is very different from having full time staff.
The main difference here is that costs are matched with output and that is good enough for us and for every body else. Within this new approach we have within the BDS a new officer known as resident accountant.
Their role is to enable members to keep their books of accounts in a more organized and acceptable manner to stakeholders such as tax authorities.
In this we have one accountant serving 30 businesses for the purposes of providing the much needed expertise in as far as keeping the books of accounts is concerned. Clearly we have changed the approach within the BDS to make it more relevant.
The main thrust here of the new approach is sharing costs while at the same time retaining relevance. This new approach is more sustainable than the previous one.
Further still we have agreed with Rwanda Development Board and the Ministry of Commerce that they will be providing some free services within this BDS infrastructure. For instance access to market information by our members.
These centers will also act as trade points. Meaning that one can say that the BDS will be run on a private public partnership approach.
It is good that your are shedding more light on this new approach as we had lacked information on how you were restructuring the PSF.
On that I must add that for the former BDS officers who had the requisite capacity we have retained them as part of the new BDS consultants.
There are several PSF projects which are noble but seem to be stuck.
You have to be very specific in order for me to give you a more specific answer.
Let us talk about the Rwanda International Trade Fair project.
Does it mean that you have made some assessment and you have come to a conclusion that something is not right somewhere?
All I am seeking is a correct picture of what is happening.
On that we are in the process of mobilizing resources needed. It is not stuck by any chance. We are talking to parties interested in partnering with us. We have positive feedback so far which is a good indicator that we are in the right direction. That also applies to several of our projects.
Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has some novel projects it has developed in which it intends to spin over to the private sector. Have you looked at some of them and have you sensitized your members on the need for them to seize opportunities these projects have?
I tend to think that you are talking about some of those infrastructure projects. Given that I must say that most of our members are not in a position to participate in some of these projects given their unique orientations. But when there is an element of Private Public Partnership (PPP) then it makes it more attractive for them to come on board.
However I must add that the PPP framework is still young locally. In that we need to build capacities. We brought in experts from the Development Bank of Southern Africa-DBSA to assist.
The intention is to enable our members to partake in such projects rather than only letting foreign investors develop some of these seemingly lucrative ventures.
Though I must point out here that foreign investors are quite welcome to participate in these ventures. But it is good enough if the locals participate too. In that we need to strengthen our local private sector.
The best approach is through the PPP route. Once RDB kick starts these projects it will be the right time to asses whether we as local private sector can participate in them.
Have you noted an observation generally in which some people confuse the roles of both PSF and RDB within the private sector landscape?
I have. What I can say is that PSF is an advocacy organ for the country’s private sector. In this role once in a while it sits down within some forums to take such issues to the doorsteps of the Government which RDB is known to be a part of. Meaning that our advocacy roles puts us in direct contact with RDB in as far as the issues of private sector development is concerned.
However this kind of contact should not be confused as over lap of functions. When we advocate issues RDB as Government comes in hand to facilitate our members.