Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the journey towards Rwanda’s middle income status will among other things require improvement in the education system and better global positioning.
He was speaking during a panel discussion on Rwanda’s development path over the next 30 years alongside Sir Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public policy, University of Oxford. The event was held in Kigali yesterday.
Blair, who was in the country as part of his work with Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said that Rwanda’s middle income status was attainable but requires adjustments across several sectors.
The areas that need streamlining, he said, include improvement of the education system to a level whereby it guarantees global firms that necessary skills are readily available.
“Focus on education and improving the education system. The one thing that will attract people here is if they believe that they will find a good education system. There is no first world country that has no proper education system,” he said.
Blair also noted the importance of increasingly positioning the country as ideal investment destination amidst increased appetite and demand for capital across the world.
With increased competition from across the world in regards to investment destinations, the former British Premier said Rwanda ought to find an edge and comparative advantage.
“Presenting yourself to the world, when there are all these places where investors can take their money and there is a strong appetite for capital. You need to market yourself as an oasis of awesomeness, good governance, clarity of direction, predictability and rule of law in a desert that is filled with difficulties. Rwanda could become a hub for the wider region. It is an ambition for the country and could be realized,” he noted.
Other preconditions he said include learning from other nations as well as ability to often make difficult and unpopular choices.
Prof Paul Collier said other drivers towards economic targets include focusing on exports, jobs and construction.
He added that there was a huge opportunity in exports, especially to the region, in aspects such as food products.
However, the food exports require processing and value addition to meet international standards and fetch better prices on the international market.
Prof. Collier also noted that Rwanda’s positioning in the region was ideal to provide access to regional markets at lower costs.
Rwanda could also look for growth in sectors such as construction, competing against China, building on its proximity to countries that have massive projects.
He noted that it could also compete with other bigger countries in the aspect by leveraging on the advantage of proximity and having adequate skills.
Clare Akamanzi the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board, said the country was working towards the said steps by attracting export oriented investments as well as job opportunities.
She said the government had also been looking into scaling up the impact of a number of Rwanda’s biggest exporters and go beyond the micro-economy.
Among the changes that the government is planning on making is replicating success stories such as C&H Garments which exports to developed markets and employs about 1,700 Rwandans.
“We would like to identify such pockets of success and look at scaling them up to replicate the impact,” she said.
Akamanzi added that the government was also keen on increasing the expenditure of tourists in the country.
On average, a tourist spends four days in Rwanda with the number of visitors annually standing at about a million.
“We are not be very desperate to increase the number of tourists in the country, however we would like to make them spend more time in the country as well as spend more money. The expenditure per tourist is still very low,” she said.
Other strategies include targeting high value commodities for exports.
She said that Rwanda is also rolling out a new strategy where they will have investment advisers in key markets such as China, India, Dubai among others who will work on identifying and attracting investments to Rwanda.