At the monthly presidential news conference at Village Urugwiro, President Kagame outlined the consistent growth of the economy amidst rising global socio- economic turbulence. Discussing the phenomenal rise in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Rwanda, President Kagame stressed that although over US$500m of both domestic and foreign investment flowed into the country in 2010, the government and the people of Rwanda are striving to surpass the figure by a wide margin in 2011.
Outlining affected sectors which include agribusiness, energy, telecoms, banking, tourism, he expressed delight that the recorded growth transcended the urban areas, to flow into the hinterlands. The President emphasized that the target of the government is to draw more foreign investors in the coming years.
Without doubt, Rwanda remains a beacon to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in the drive towards sustainable economic growth and advancement.
In striving to maintain this lead, the government, while stressing the need for increased foreign direct investment, must display a high degree of caution.
Utmost care must be exercised to ensure that going forward, such investments are to the best interests of the country.
Sub-Saharan African has been at the receiving end of exploitative “foreign direct investments” aimed at a subsequent and consistent flight of capital, after the initial recorded investment.
Stranded capitalists - whose investments have lost value in the West due to the continuing global recession - have metamorphosed into short-term portfolio investors in sub-Saharan Africa.
With little regard, respect or belief in Africa and Africans, they shop around for relatively stable democracies such as Rwanda, searching for opportunities to up their ailing wealth. FDI of this nature, which is becoming prevalent, is usually without any form of technology transfer, which is the greatest benefit of FDI. These “investors” are hesitant to put up permanent structures that would yield multiple effects for the economy of Rwanda through job and wealth creation.
There is hardly any emphasis on indigenous manpower development, and often, attempts are made to short circuit due process through bribery, intimidation or concealment of data to the government.
Rwanda must accept that due to its sterling socio-economic and political dynamics, more FDI will seek to flow into the country in 2011, much more than ever before. The question that begs is, what percentage of the expected FDI will truly benefit the people of Rwanda? It is commendable and noteworthy that Rwanda is one of the very few countries in world where you can incorporate a business in the same day with minimal stress.
Such feat, however, exposes the country to the dubious manipulations of greedy capitalists whose business interests are not subjected to the utmost scrutiny, in order to verify their viability for the people of Rwanda across social strata. Progressively, it is suggested that local content requirements for the establishment of corporations and industries should be paramount in the granting of operating licenses. Emphasis on the training and utilization of local staff should be stressed to would-be and existing investors.
It is laudable that the government has since embarked on serious education reform initiatives in order to prepare Rwandans to be globally competitive, and to take up managerial positions in any industry whatsoever. This burden for the education of the citizens must be shared with the foreign investors who should be mandated to provide world class training to Rwandan citizens in their employ.
Most importantly, there is the need for orientation of the citizens to believe in themselves and their ability to hold their own in any setting.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the unfortunate effects of colonialism have left most of the citizens with an inferiority complex towards the former colonizers. Years of being ruled and told that as a people, Africans do not measure up to their colonizers have damaged the psychology of several citizens.
Anybody with a skin color of the former colonizers is venerated and deferred to, for the most part. The orientation should focus on changing the self-denigrating pattern that was entrenched by colonial forces and sustained by global imperialism.
Nobody knows and understands Rwanda more than the Rwandans, and we as a people must come to this understanding. While we pride ourselves in being respectful to foreigners, more than ever, we should pride ourselves in protecting our territorial integrity and humanness as a people, and expect to receive fair and highly mutually beneficial treatment in all matters of business related transactions by foreigners.
Chika A. Ezeanya is a researcher and writer on African socio-economic advancement issues.