It is Ni Hao from here in Beijing. It has been over a fortnight now since yours truly moved here. What an opportune moment it has been to be in China during what is dubbed as the ‘political season.’
I have had the opportunity to follow proceedings of the just concluded 2nd session of the 12th National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; two major events in China’s political calendar.
It has not all been just about local politics though. As China embarks on the ‘great rejuvenation’, its relationship with the international community has featured prominently in reports, discussions and press briefings. Africa has not been left out.
In one of such briefings, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted: “China and Africa are good brothers who share weal and woe… China and Africa are also good partners who engage in cooperation as equals…China Africa cooperation is entering a new phase of development.”
Back home, it is the Girubucuruzi Fund to support small businesses introduced by the City of Kigali (CoK) that got me excited. On Sunday March 9th, this paper reported on a fund set up by the City ‘to bankroll city dwellers that lack capital to start or expand their businesses.’
Why the excitement? First, this is a tangible move by City authorities to curtail the problem of urban poverty that remains a problem in our city. There is no way the country will increase GDP growth from 8.3 to the desired 11.5 per cent by 2017 if people are not involved in any economic activity.
Secondly, it is because of the category of people this fund is targeting. Loans of between Rwf500, 000 and Rwf2million may seem to be pocket change to some but for the poor woman in the city slums, this is a potential game changer.
With a low interest rate of five per cent per annum and a repayment period of two years and no collateral, this fund, if well implemented has the potential of improving the income structure of the poor in the city.
Thirdly, my excitement is occasioned by the involvement of civil society and the private sector in providing funds and products to support the programme. The appeal by government has always been about Private Public Partnerships especially in supporting social programmes.
Launching the fund is the easy part, the real hard work starts now – implementation. In starting up the fund CoK authorities say that they have borrowed from the highly successful Gir’inka (one-cow-per poor family) blueprint but they have to steer clear of the inconsistencies that plagued the early days of the programme.
One such irregularity that managers of the fund have to avoid is funding the wrong category of people. In the early stages of the Gir’inka programme, it was discovered that cows meant for the poor were instead shared out amongst some local leaders and other recipients were found not to be bona fide beneficiaries to the initiative.
It took the intervention of the Head of State to address the anomaly. It doesn’t have to get to that AGAIN.
The challenge of programmes not benefiting the intended category of people is not just at micro level. Some big government institutions have also been found wanting.
The just concluded Eleventh Leadership retreat resolved to expedite restructuring of the functioning and management of Development Bank of Rwanda ‘so that it fulfils its mission.’
The bank was criticised for reneging on its mission of among others promoting Small and Medium Enterprises and smallholder farmer groups through funding appropriate technologies like irrigation.
There is new momentum right from the top executive to have things done faster and efficiently judging from the resolutions of the Leaders retreat. The Girubucuruzi scheme run by the CoK has to deliver and deliver real fast.
One of the challenges that need to be addressed is bureaucracy. The process of accessing funding involves the local leaders from the grassroots to the City Mayor. Mechanisms should be put in place to make the process much easier with clear checks to detect abuse.
Authorities should make public the time it takes for one with proper documentation to receive funding.
For the scheme to win further funding from the private sector there is need for proper accountability and meticulous implementation, naturally businesses don’t want to sink money in a bottomless pit; they would want to associate themselves with a success story.
May this excitement last.