The World Bank’s prediction that Rwanda will, this year, register the highest level of growth within the East African Community (EAC) should not come as a surprise. For others, especially policy makers in Rwanda, a case being the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning John Rwangombwa, the Bank’s prediction as a respected development agency, is a reflection of a path that has been firmly established by Rwandans themselves. It is an ongoing journey that is not likely to be derailed.
The issue at hand is what can be termed as the politics of national development of any country, especially the economies of the larger EAC. One can even go a step further by comparing not just the dry statistics of how the EAC countries are performing, but by attempting to look at the underlying factors that give forth to such performances.
While looking at underlying performance factors, naturally what comes to mind is policy formulation. But we all know that all countries have good policies. Simply told, policies are well meaning intentions by our leaders. In that measure, I am yet to be told about any EAC country with bad economic policies. Most of the policies are made by some of the sharpest minds in East Africa.
I will explain further. As a Kenyan, I know that our economic policy formulation programme is one of the most respected in the region.
That is one main reason some of us are proud to be Kenyans. On top of that, we lump in our relatively large resources in addition to other known comparative advantages such as stability achieved over decades and abundant and well trained human capital base.
The combination should ideally present a situation whereby Kenya ought to be in a class of its own in terms of economic prosperity for its people. Which is the subject of this article. But we also know that a big number of Kenyans were adversely affected, last year, by runaway inflation and erosion of the Kenyan shilling that presented several other complex economic challenges for her people.
The situation was very different here in Rwanda. That is why I was able to tell some Rwandan friends how lucky they were to have certain things that are lacking in other countries. Maybe, I reasoned, that the situation in Rwanda is partly due to the fact that Rwandans have come from a very dark past and that since they would not wish to have a repeat of such past events, their leaders have to be on a constant alert especially on issues touching on masses such as taming inflation, checking on rising fuel and food prices among other critical issues.
As a Kenyan working and living in Rwanda, I could not think of any reason why Rwanda could classically outperform, for three years running, other countries that have bigger comparative advantages. But one thing seems clear to me. That with simple practical policies that are pro-people, rather than those that benefit the chosen few, it is indeed possible to make a difference in this part of the world, where poverty eradication should take centre stage in policy formulation.
I am not saying that Rwanda has at this very moment, emerged victorious in the battle against poverty. I have been to some parts of Rwanda where poverty levels are still a source of grave concern to all. However, what is particularly impressive in Rwanda, is the will and determination and the urge by policymakers to slay such a ghost.
Personally, that is where I think Rwanda is actually outperforming her neighbours. The implication, according to my thinking, is that many more Rwandans are being elevated out of poverty at a much faster rate, than is the case with other EAC member countries. Such determination is what translates into the kind of statistics that shows that Rwanda is ahead, especially given the fact that Rwanda may not compete with many other countries in terms of resource base.
The author is an editor with The New Times