Last week, we reviewed some of the elements that are preventing Rwanda to develop faster. We talked about the difficulties: in the Banking and Financial Sectors; high interest rates; the labor code built-in impediments; high corporate rate; small investment in infrastructure and at a slow rate; and the slow process of starting a company.
I saw with great pleasure that many of the elements I was going to talk about this week have already been identified by the forward-looking Akagera Government retreat that just ended, e.g.: increasing the economic tasks of our embassies around the world; paying faster for services by the Ministry of Finance (MINECOFIN) in cooperation with budget agencies.
I am also happy to report that the Company Registration office of the Court of Higher Instance of Kigali has agreed to get help from the local ICT Company mentioned here last week; the Company will provide, for free, software for a Company Registry in less than 4 weeks.
In the good governance section of the conclusions of the Government Retreat, the communiqué talks about “uruhare rwa za Ambasade mu guteza imbere ishoramari”.
Our embassies had traditionally four major tasks: (i) negotiate grants and loans; (ii) counter the genocide propaganda abroad and track down the perpetrators of the genocide who are hiding in foreign countries; (iii) work at erasing negative image of Rwanda and cultivate a positive image among foreign countries; (iv) provide visas to travelers.
Akagera Retreat seems to have added a fifth dimension that is extremely important. Not knowing the content of discussions on this topic at the Retreat, I will add my own view and interpretation of this important statement: Rwandan embassies must have, from now on, expert economic staff to help Rwandan businessmen establish foreign business contacts for exports, and market researchers to establish what these exports should be for the particular country where they serve.
Example: what can we export today to Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, etc.? Our exports do not have to be extraordinary products: why not export potatoes, beans, soybeans, avocado, passion fruit juice, products that have immediate impact on the majority of our people who are farmers? Then we can push them to work harder and produce more. We can also export some of the ICT products made in Rwanda: products from SMS Media, Megasystems, E-Tools, etc.
In the same good governance section, the Ministry of Finance was asked to
(“34. MINECOFIN: Kwihutisha kwishyura abatanze serivisi mu masoko ya Leta”)
speed up payments to service providers.
This statement is very important as the slow payment process of the Government of Rwanda may have caused a number of bankruptcies and it is a major impediment to the local private sector made of many small companies with a very weak cash flow. It is not rare to wait for payments for up to a year. This gives an edge to foreign companies that can rely on better and friendlier foreign banks. This explains why many tenders are won by foreign companies and the bulk of donors money go back home.
In another section of the Retreat conclusions, it was decided to (“korohereza abakozi b’abanyamahanga dukeneye ku isoko ry’umurimo”)
facilitate hiring foreign professionals we need in our labor market. This is about making it easy the process of getting a work permit or eliminating it altogether for those professionals in shortage and who are critical to our fast development.
We need talent today as we are training our own people; we need to welcome the foreign talent that is interested in working with us and developing a vibrant economy with us. We should also be ready to provide them with citizenship as soon as they ask for it. We already do this for soccer players and they do not yet create much wealth in Rwanda. I do agree, they increase our prestige and, of course, this is very important in marketing our country.
Retreat Conclusion 33 addresses some fundamental weaknesses in our Public Service that are responsible for us not developing faster: civil servants mindset and behaviors that need to change or improve; need to look for creative even unconventional ways to solve problems; prioritization and specialization; respond promptly to citizens requests and to official correspondence; delegate to their employees enough power to respond and get penalized if they delay responding; put in place a system of accountability; increase efficiency in monitoring and evaluation; fight resistance to change, get a positive attitude that goes with believing that things are possible; introduce time management and penalties for time mismanagement; work in transparency; increase speed of execution; work as a team and if necessary work after hours; develop the habit of speaking the truth and listen to constructive criticism; follow constantly the Vision 2020 in everything being done; build different levels of administrative structures and teach them to make decisions delegated to their level of authority.
About the Retreat Conclusion 33, we are happy to report that there is a tool developed by one of our ICT companies, available free of charge to every public administrative unit. This software tool can take care of monitoring civil servants performance in prioritization, prompt responses, transparency, speed of execution, workflow management, document management and retrieval. The tool’s name is e-documents. If you need a copy of the tool, send me an e-mail and I will put you in contact with the owner of the tool. It is free, even the training of your IT staff is free. RITA currently pays its support. Starting on October 1, 2008, RITA will take over complete support of this tool.
For positive feedback and any criticism, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org