Everybody, Rwandan or visitor, agrees that when it comes to good service delivery, the Rwandan Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration can favourably compete with any such department on the globe. It’s no wonder that in 2009 the department beat all the contesting African countries to scoop the prestigious African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) award.
For the contest, the department presented its innovative Online Visa Application project, which has revolutionised visa issuance in Rwanda.
Today, apart from many countries not requiring visas for their nationals travelling to Rwanda, nationals of countries that require visas can get them in the comfort of their seats. They only need to be connected to the internet.
Rwanda emerged winner over four other finalists that included Uganda, Zambia, Ghana and South Africa.
There is no doubt that beating giant South Africa to the award was not a push-over, a fact underlined by the excitement of the usually cooler-than-cucumber Anaclet Kalibata, Director General of the department.
“We are very excited,” enthused he, after receiving the award. He went on: “….it is a strong indication that where there is a will, there is a way.”
And I am one with him over that. There are many cynics in Rwanda but I’ve not heard of one who faulted the department for not being well received.
And I’ve asked around. All have nothing but praise for the department. I don’t cross borders or pass immigration counters much these days, but I recoil when I remember the headaches we used to suffer at the hands of harsh or disinterested immigration officials.
I remember that, in fact, it used to be a relief when one encountered a hand that was ready to be greased! Today, such a hand at any Rwandan border post or airport would draw sneers, so unexpected would it be.
Of course, generally Rwanda is not totally corruption-free, but I have not heard any complaints as regards the immigration department.
And it’s not only in the area of bribery. I have not heard anybody accuse the department of any form of malpractice or negligence.
Except the other day. A gentleman was recounting how he passed an interview to acquire Rwandan nationality. He was surprised, he said, that he has been waiting now for seven months without any communication.
I was also surprised because I know that, if for instance I want a new passport, I will have read on the forms that the process takes two weeks.
And, just as I am sure that tomorrow won’t be the end of the world (!), I’ll be sure that at the end of the two weeks I’ll receive an SMS informing me that my passport is ready.
So, when everybody has grown to expect clockwork service, our service providers should not overlook even the tiniest detail.
It’s not only that everybody has you under the microscope but also that you should feel obliged not to slacken in your mission. Still, three cheers to the immigration department for leading the way!
But watch out, Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) is hot on your heels.
That giant body that used to provoke indignation whenever mentioned has turned around and is receiving praises also, albeit cautiously.
Today if RRA is accused of anything, it’s that it is too strict with its charges and penalties.
But then without being strict, I don’t see how else it can execute its obligations.
RRA’s mission statement defines its raison d’être: to “mobilise revenue for economic development through efficient and equitable services that promote business growth.”
With such a mission, it would be unreasonable for anybody to expect the body not to do everything possible to collect the last of its dimes. And it would be theft for anybody to deny it its dues.
So, let’s pay taxes and be happy to enjoy the privileges that they afford us.
On complaints, the one that I’ve repeatedly heard should not necessarily be placed at the RRA’s door.
The complaint is by right-hand car owners whose cars are not registered in Rwanda.
Their registration is not allowed even now that Rwanda is a member of the East African community when three of the East African countries drive on the left and thus have right-hand-drive cars.
The implication here is that Rwandans with such cars are not allowed to cross with them, forcing some to get foreign drivers to cross with them in their names.
Other such owners find an alternative in adopting double nationality. As far as I know, the law on which ‘hand’ to adopt is being studied.
Hopefully, a decision will be taken and the ‘hands’ can be sorted out.
Meanwhile, the ‘race of the titans’ (the immigration and revenue departments) is being challenged by other government departments.
Let’s hope that the private sector will finally see the light and join the race to good service delivery.
I don’t necessarily have any bone to pick with private banks, but I have a big one to pick with insurance companies. Especially the big duo of Soras and Sonarwa.