Should the celebrated leadership of Rwanda Inc. CEO have a shelf life?

The hullabaloo around Rwanda Inc CEO’s Term limit is loud and the debate contentious. However, as a business strategist, I felt the topic worthy of practical dissection.

The hullabaloo around Rwanda Inc CEO’s Term limit is loud and the debate contentious. However, as a business strategist, I felt the topic worthy of practical dissection.

Term limits whether practiced here or elsewhere directly contradict the very principle of democracy, wherein people elect the men and women who lead them.

The purpose of democracy is to ensure that people can put in office who they think is best for the job, and best represents their interests.

Term limits inhibit this system, as they block someone from serving after they have completed their prohibitive tenure. By virtue of the constitution/empowered rubric, the people should determine who should lead them irrespective of term limits and by the very core of democracy the person should be retained. To suggest otherwise beats the very principle of democracy which is somewhat anti-democratic, truly.

Corporate governance elements simply don’t address decisions made, but rather the processes/infrastructure placed to facilitate right decisions, which is a poignant attribute to the principle.

Tenure limits aren’t an optimal solution to the potential agency problems caused by the exiting capable, tested and experienced CEO like President Paul Kagame, it’s not corporate governance, and it’s a regressive concept with a distinct impact on performance. The efficacy of term limits is in question as limits don’t value continuity of the CEO who has gained over a period of time a level of in-depth understanding of the company/country and its strategic objectives, operations, challenges and, therefore, provides a valuable contribution.

Rwanda Inc. CEO is currently serving his second term, which by the constitution is his last term.

I respect the provision of the constitution that stipulates this but I equally respect the provision that provides for amendment of the provision as long as the Rwandan people deem it right.

The article of our constitution stipulating the term limits shouldn’t be viewed in isolation of other articles and precisely that’s why it’s called a constitution. In 2003, we the Rwandan people of voting age at will voted this constitution to address the issues then and the unforeseen future.

In so doing, we didn’t cast it in brick and stone to enable the future generations based on current circumstances to amend the constitution to serve the interests of the Rwandan society.

President Paul Kagame, the greatest CEO Rwanda has had and I dare to say will ever have, is the glue that continues to provide continuity between vision and strategy for Rwanda and beyond.

He unquestionably has steady hands at the wheel, provides inspiration and leadership, as well as offers to seek the advice and counsel of all - right from the grass roots.

Therefore, the question is, with this kind of leadership, should we subject it to a shelf life irrespective of performance? The resounding answer is: a definite NO. Corporate governance stands on a premise of nothing else but of rewarding performance at all times. We who voted this constitution in place, should exercise our constitutional right and amend the constitution and equally important, considering the Rwandan demography, a big fraction of our current voting age Rwandans were not of voting age then and their voices should be heard and we keep hearing them in different forums echoing their support for continuity of the current exemplary leadership.

Of recent, I have read with disbelief the arguments for term limits ranging from respect to the constitution. This doesn’t make much sense because the right to amend the constitution is respecting the constitution. Others argue that tenure checks performance: this can’t be an end in itself. It’s simplistic. The fact of the matter is that the time needed to achieve set targets varies depending inter alia the age, size and competitive positioning of the company; the industry and the sector.

Stating that a CEO of a start-up like Rwanda should operate with the same term limit constraints of a CEO of the developed world is unrealistic and detrimental. Tenure is not the issue; business savvy, leadership ability, and the ability to provide certainty of execution should constitute the metrics surrounding CEO performance evaluation.

Other critics of the Rwandan Leadership have equally had the rounds in support of the term limits: are we surprised? Should we be surprised or should we think otherwise about our CEO?

This just reminds me of the saying “You can tell the quality of a man from the quality of his enemies”.

President Kagame isn’t seeking a third term. We are giving it to him for our own sake - for continuity, stability and many other reasons. His selfless service to his nation is unquestionable, unprecedented and worth everything to those of us who are fortunate to live in his time.

We all confront unexpected changes throughout our lives, and our responses are often determined by how we perceive those changes. If we see a change as a threat, we tend to react defensively, taking immediate aggressive action to protect ourselves.

If, however, we see the change as an opportunity, we tend to be more deliberate and reasoned in our response. We may postpone action, continuing in our established routines as we wait to see how the situation plays out.

This isn’t the time to postpone action, we shouldn’t willingly give up the competitive edge that we have, which is very rare, that we longed for and comes once at best or never in a generation.

Rwanda is gifted with a conscientious committed, able, willing leader; we know how blessed we are to have President Kagame and we will request him to continue leading this great nation. It is okay for critics to question, but it would be a shame if we just watched in silence.

Further still, those of us who interact with international interested parties, the key question is what will happen in 2017? Without an exemption, they all are hoping that President Kagame continues his visionary leadership.

Reputation is the most critical factor in the choice of a CEO. Investors and we alike would question why change a CEO with a market perception as President Kagame, who has been highly decorated with several accolades that I shall not dare list.

Rwanda during his leadership has become the best at achieving several reforms, what message would one be sending out to the world markets that voiced their loud appreciation of the leadership by over subscribing the first Rwandan EuroBond, and keep coming to Kigali to show the increased appetite for Rwandan debt.

There is one thing, and one thing only that should determine the length of time a chief executive is allowed to serve – their ability to lead effectively. Any other form of measure is superfluous.

The relevant issues should be: President Kagame, our CEO, continues to adapt, improvise and overcome, he is fully engaged, open to evolved thinking, learning and unlearning, and he unquestionably even by his critics, serves in the best interests of Rwanda and beyond.

Let’s be honest: Term Limits are lazy leadership concepts that we Rwandans are way ahead of as we openly hold our leadership to account; we shouldn’t make choices on a simplistic foundation that essentially irrelevant people will translate immediately into growth or improved performance. Don’t they say, never change a winning team?

The choice is ours and only ours! I have made mine!

The author is corporate strategist based in Kigali.