Rwanda will continue to rely on data and statistics that are accurate and reflecting the situation on the ground in the process of seeking social progress.
Francis Gatare, the Rwanda Development Board chief executive, said this on Thursday while sharing the journey of the country’s transformation at a social progress forum in Iceland dubbed, ‘What works Today.’
While sharing Rwanda’s journey over the years and lessons learned in the process, Gatare said among lessons learnt was that measuring is an important aspect of social progress but it has to be based on correct data that reflects the accurate state of affairs on the ground.
“We asked ourselves what it actually means when we pick indicators that are often based on single country opinions. We wanted to see what it means in respect to recommendations emerging from the indicators. We wanted to see how we can get actionable ideas from these indicators that as countries we can take forward and it was very difficult to identify any,” he said.
The need for better data to measure social progress and track development was also emphasised by Prof. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.
At the forum, Gatare shared some of Rwanda’s strategies for social progress that had been implemented over the past two decades and highlighted the impacts to the populace.
He said following the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that saw the country declared by some as a ‘failed state’, Rwandans turned to home-grown solutions to build social cohesion and recovery.
Home-grown initiatives drawn from Rwanda's culture saw the implementation of initiatives such as Gacaca courts, which had brought restorative justice and reconciliation to a once divided nation.
Gatare explained that the need for home-grown solutions and initiatives arose from lack of conventional approaches to address the complex needs of the country at the time.
“Much of our progress and growth that we see today has been built from innovations that we see that have been borrowed from our traditional values,” he said.
Gatare said Gacaca courts, for instance, came in handy to solve the challenge of the time where it would have taken the country decades to try hundreds of thousands of Genocide suspectrs in conventional courts.
At the same time, the society was fractured and there was need for urgent unity and reconciliation.
To support rural communities to collectively solve problems related to poverty, the country rolled out another home grown solution, Ubudehe and Imihigo, which enables citizens to keep their leaders accountable.
Girinka, which gives one cow per poor family, was introduced to alleviate poverty, while Umuganda saw citizens come together to clean their communities.
The home-grown solutions, Gatare noted, had achieved desired impacts putting Rwanda on the list of most improved countries globally.
However, he added that the progress made so far was not the overall goal and that the country would continue to work to increase opportunities for citizens.