Rwanda Development Board(RDB) has embarked on a new re-orientation strategy.
In this exclusive interview, RDB CEO John Gara talks to Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times on what this entails.
Is it true that RDB been re-organised?
It is not true to say that RDB has been re-organised. In other words, what we have done is the normal routine exercise that any institution does in order to make it better from time to time.
But just to take you back, RDB restructured during the last time we did that kind of activity as an important element of its growth phase, as it involved the reorganisation of all the groups that came together to form it.
In that last restructuring, I must point out clearly that we moved from having just merely groupings that came together to form certain economic clusters.
Now the point to take note of, when I say that RDB has not been re-organised, is that there has not been any major changes in that kind of formation that we have.
RDB’s structures remain the same, meaning that to my knowledge, there has not been any kind of reorganisation of RDB.
So, how about this new thing that involves changes in how RDB does its activities that we hear is happening there?
What you are probably talking about is one of the things we have been looking at and this is something that is very important for any organisation.
In other words, an organisation cannot remain static in terms of how it does it activities. It is a process whereby you try to improve every time.
There are two issues we have been looking at. One is in terms of investment attraction. Generally speaking, investment promotion and its implementation department was one of the primary focus.
It was the sole department responsible for investment promotion. One of the things we are now looking into is getting economic cluster departments to get involved in investment promotion or attraction.
That is a major departure from your past style of working as an institution. That is probably why I am saying that RDB is being re-organised
Not at all. However, I must say that it is an important one. To make you understand what I am talking about, I will give you an example.
The ICT department in the past primarily focused on building of our infrastructure such as the fibre optic and other things.
But now the ICT department is expected to primarily give us ideas on what kind of ICT companies should we should target and where should we target them as they are the ICT people.
They are best placed in offering the best kind of advice. The same applies to the tourism department.
This department, we feel, should play a more active role in giving us an idea about what chains we should go for.
That is, in a nutshell, a re-orientation of the way we work. But it is not restructuring as you may be thinking.
Secondly, the other important element in terms of the way we are looking at our work is cluster development.
That is in the sense of saying that when any of those departments looks at a particular area of say, this is where we want to develop, you then look at that area from a cluster point of view.
In other words, we would say who are the most important players in this particular area? That includes the private sector, government and other players.
We look at it from that point of view and we see how we can develop that cluster. These are some of the things we are looking at. It is not a reorganisation, but rather it is a re-orientation of strategy.
When you say that periodically you look at RDB internally, with intentions of making it a better outfit, how can we audit the activities of RDB since its inception? For instance, how can we be sure that RDB is actually delivering on its mandate? How does RDB audit itself?
That is a very interesting question. What we are doing is one of the things we are looking at, is to develop certain metrics.
In other words, these are the ways we are going to measure ourselves. We are still in the process of doing that.
We shall be finalising that by the end of this week. For instance, we want to ask ourselves a question-how do we measure ourselves?
Of course we give ourselves targets. Whether targets are in relation to investment promotion, export growth, or jobs created.
We want to give ourselves certain targets. Having said that, I must point out that we give ourselves targets such what comes out of the Kivu retreats.
But besides that, we want to give ourselves targets that will be announced in public. It will not be for the purpose of others.
It will be for us at RDB. It is very important that we know what we are aiming at for us to be able to know that we are succeeding.
The way to do that is to give ourselves metrics. And our metrics have got to be quite clear.
What are these metric you are talking about?
We are still working on it as we move on. The primary metrics are actually enshrined in the RDB Strategy document that is currently available.
It forms the basis of measuring our progress. Our primary metrics is to increase private sector contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), jobs created over time in the private sector and the level of private investment over time.
What we now need to do is to be actually be very specific about these metrics and this is what we are doing right now. We realised that we have to have a way in which to measure ourselves.
Does it mean that now RDB now has an “imihigo”, the so called performance contracts that public institutions sign?
I have given it to you-the RDB strategy is a document in writing that precisely states that. Metrics is precisely Imihigo.
That means that these are our mandates. However, it is a two level measure. One is you determine your primary metrics.
Secondly, you determine the particular levels. For example, for this year, we said that we target US$550 million as investments to Rwanda.
So, that is our target but you must first start with the primary metrics which define your institution. I am talking about your primary imihigos.
These are the things which we think are going to be important. But we put it in writing and we publish it in that little booklet known as RDB Strategy.
We sent it around so that people know that at the end of the day, those are the three primary metrics that will be measured against RDB. When we go beyond that, we then have to seat and say look; this is what we have to deliver.
However, I must add that it is equally important to look at what we aim at.
But there are also factors that have to be considered that act beyond the workings and control of an institution in question that will have an effect on the deliverables.
For instance, if we are committed to attract so much investment and it does not work out due to the global financial crisis, like it was sometime back, there is no way we will be able to pull that kind of target investment given such situations.
However, what is important is the explanation on why such targets were not met.
What happens if RDB does not meet its target? If RDB targets to bring in US$550 million and that does not happen. Do we see John Gara ‘s head being chopped off for not performing as expected?
Laughs…….What you are asking me I really do not have an answer for since John Gara cannot chop his own head!
Someone else should actually do that.
I am saying so, since we know that Vision 2020 is only 9 years away. Rwanda needs a major transformation and the clock is ticking Mr John Gara.
There are two things that are important when you are talking about measuring our performance. One is how we do our work. The other is external factors which are beyond our control.
If we do not deliver, because of our poor performance, then there will be consequences. But if we did our best, but due to external factors, we miss our targets, then obviously even someone like you would understand such a situation.
It would not actually be our fault. However, I must emphasise that it is important that when we set our targets but do not meet them, we have to explain why.
After this re-orientation exercise, what is RDB going to do differently going forward?
The new thing that I mentioned is the cluster development. Much as it is something that we have worked on before, I think that we are going to be more focused on this in terms of redefining and identifying these clusters we are going to work on. Secondly, what we are going to do in the coming days is the heavy involvement of all other departments in investment promotion. In other words, it is going to move beyond policy advocacy and product development which is one of our many departments we have focused on before.
We are now moving towards policy advocacy, product development and investment promotion at an economic cluster development level.
RDB is custodian of some of the biggest national assets. Give us a quick update on these.
The main areas where we do have investments are one, within ICT where we have invested a lot in infrastructure.
As I had mentioned previously, we are now moving from infrastructure development to services development.
We have just finished doing the planning for the next phase for five years in terms of ICT development. We are now going to look at how we shall use this infrastructure to provide services.
We are talking about services in terms of private sector development plus involvement of government institutions. A case being, how are we going to use this infrastructure to boost health services?
This is what we you are going to see in the next five years. The other area where we have investments is in the tourism sector.
Tourism is an area that government accrues revenue from. So, we are investing in terms of things like fencing the Akagera National Park or improving services in the national parks.
Let’s talk about investment promotion. Investment declined last year. When you look at other areas of the EAC, they recorded an increment. I am talking about Uganda and Tanzania, according to The World Investment Report. We cannot really say that this decline can be attributed to the global economic crisis. We know, for instance, that South South investments are on the rise, that a country such as Rwanda can look up to and tap the southern hemisphere to bring in investments away from traditional sources. Clearly, it is an issue of investment promotion strategy, more than external influences you are talking about. I must say that Rwanda is the top investment destination in the EAC according to so many reports. Why this decline? Someone would say that, look here, Uganda’s investment promotion worked more than Rwanda’s.
No no no! It does not work like that.
But we are talking about figures here Mr John Gara
Investment promotion has a link to the actual investment that you get.
It does not mean that the country that has better investment promotion necessarily gets more investments. I can give an example.
A country can get one very large investment, say in petroleum exploration which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Just one. That would have an impact on a country’s FDI figures. If you happen to have oil, you will get it. If you do not have oil, you will not get it.
Whenever you are comparing investment especially FDI figures, it is important to equally look at details. For instance, what deal happened to come in to bring in such investments? It is not fair to compare totals without going to the details of what came into that particular country.
That is why, interestingly, you will find that countries that are hosts to the biggest amounts of FDIs, sometimes are still in conflict where things are really bad. But because of such natural resources, they still get a lot of FDIs.
In such cases, it can be a fallacy to talk about investment climate or promotion being good. It could be that there is something that the FDI is searching for.