Last week, I was privileged to engage the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, on a fairly detailed discussion based around the UK government’s aid policy to Africa.
During the course of the discussion, I could not hide my amazement at how such a high profile UK public official is passionate about Rwanda generally and his conviction and firmness on what he thinks Rwanda can offer Africa in particular.
Hon. Mitchell says that he has visited Rwanda for the last six years. He says that he has totally fallen in love with the country. While talking to him, one can conclude that his love for Rwanda is largely based on its unwavering commitment to make a clean break from its dark past, through charting a new dispensation that seeks to enable all Rwandans to be prosperous.
That meant that as a politician, Mitchell has managed to accumulate, over time, a fairly detailed insight into what goes around. One can add that Mitchell is well versed with the true story of the country’s rebirth.
The accumulation of such knowledge and information on Rwanda, in my impression after the interview, has enabled Mitchell to correctly assess how the country can share such experiences with other African countries in tandem with aspirations for a better continent.
One such insight is aid. This is a very hot and at times controversial topic in Africa. One school of thought in particular says that, Africa has not benefited much from aid. However, for Andrew Mitchell, aid can work miracles when well spent and managed.
Citing Rwanda’s example as an exceptional and a shining path for the UK’s development assistance to Africa, Mitchell adds the country’s rebirth is made possible due in part to the partnership and development assistance from the UK.
To take the partnership to the next level, the UK is increasing its support to Rwanda by 50 percent over the next four years and this new collaboration will be results oriented. What is the real implication of such good news to Rwanda generally and Africa in particular?
Rwanda has been chosen by the UK as a pilot for its new aid policy to Africa. Such a move is a huge vote of confidence in Rwanda’s public service structures, by any measure coming from a country such as the UK.
It means that other African countries will most likely learn how Rwanda has crafted its aid policy that has enabled it to win the trust of the UK government. After the interview, I called on a friend who works as an expatriate within the local education sector to have a better understanding of how the results based mechanism for aid will work.
He informed me that the design of the new aid program is based on various mutually agreed deliverables.
A perfect case being what one can call the “graduation index” for aid within education in Rwanda. In this case, the package over time, say four years, is initially premised on items such as the number of children turning up in schools.
The next critical index that is sure to attract more support, is ascertaining how many children will have acquired the basic literacy skills such as reading and writing. If that mark is passed, next is ascertaining a much higher level of donor support through an equally much higher level of expectation such as how many of the school going children will manage to eventually sit for national school exams.
In Rwanda, I need to point out that such a pilot project is actually normal. There is almost nothing new. If anything, readers of this column, especially those who happen to be Rwandans, are well versed with performance contracts among public servants, popularly known as Imihigo. Tying the aid to an Imihigo-like arrangement is actually confirmation that Rwanda has been ahead of its time.
However, this arrangement is completely new to African public service. While Rwanda will most probably provide the UK with an opportunity to showcase a results-based scenario, such a thing is not entirely new in Rwanda.
The author is an editor with The New Times