The New Times’ Kennedy Ndahiro recently approached David Himbara, Advisor on Development Strategy and Principal Private Secretary to the President on the just concluded Presidential Advisory Council Meeting, and asked him to share with our readers the results.
Tell us about the Presidential Advisory Council, what is it exactly?
The Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) was established by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Rwanda to advise him on development matters. Members of PAC include a former British Prime Minister, religious leaders, businessmen, development policy experts, university professors, and Rwandan policymakers.
Who are the members of PAC ?
Members include leading international personalities – Mr Tony Blair, Pastor Rick Warren, Mr Scot Ford, Mr Michael Fairbanks, Sir Tom Hunter, Ms Kaia Miller, Sir David King, Mr Christian Angermayer, Hon James Musoni, Hon Rosemary Museminali, Dr Clet Niyikiza, Prof Michael Porter, Mr Joe Ritchie, Mr Michael Roux, Bishop John Rucyahana, Mr Doug Shears, Prof Elaine Ubalijoro, Mr Francois Kanimba, Mr Francis Gatare, and I.
We understand that Tribert Rujugiro used to be a member of PAC. How come you are not mentioning him?
That is true – he was a member of PAC on the basis that he is a leading local entrepreneur who obviously has some good ideas on how to address Rwanda’s development challenges – particular how to strengthen our private sector.
You used the word “was”; does it mean he is no longer a member?
As you may know, he has run into difficulties with South African authorities who are alleging that he evaded tax in that country, and now awaits to face these charges. This means he cannot be a member of PAC – given the high ethical standards the President of Rwanda demands of people he associates with no matter what their background, influence and expertise.
What was accomplished at the recent PAC Meeting in Kigali?
The 3-6 April 2009 PAC meeting concentrated on Rwandan agriculture. The sector did very well last year but we cannot afford to become complacent – to the contrary we must work harder so that this sector can lead the transformation of Rwanda into a more prosperous country.
PAC debated about how we can improve financing, investment, knowledge and technology transfer, and rural infrastructure to drive our agriculture – all key elements required to move from subsistence into food security and markets.
So, what were the specific achievements of this particular PAC?
After visiting rural Rwanda during this PAC meeting, several members decided to invest in Rwandan agriculture. One member is bringing a team to Rwanda shortly on a feasibility study of establishing an investment bank targeting the agricultural sector.
Two members have been investing in agriculture in the last several years including rice production. Overall, the members now have a much better understanding of our country and its potential to feed itself and market a variety of agricultural products – based on value addition that should in turn employ more and more Rwandans.
What next for PAC ?
We meet twice a year – the next meeting is scheduled for September 2009. Members have expressed an interest in addressing the energy challenge and opportunities in our country. His Excellency the President has endorsed energy as the next topic for PAC – come back at the end of September and I provide you with the results of that PAC session.
Finally, how do you rate the contribution of PAC to improving policymaking in Rwanda?
Look at the list above – an amazing assembly of brainpower that include someone who ran a country for ten years, a leading pastor/businessman, a bishop with a remarkable record in community development, investors, bankers, farmers, and cabinet ministers from this country.
Policymaking is about think- and do-tanks – people who nurture ideas and turn them into practical solutions. Add the fact that these individuals hail from several countries with a variety of lessons to share in terms of their own development trajectories, you get a first rate think and do tank that supplements our domestic policymaking capability with considerable borrowed knowledge power.
We should be thankful as Rwandans that our leadership thinks about these invaluable resources and knows where to find them globally.