By Megameno Shikwambi
The year is 1994 and a wave of dangerous tribal hatred sweeps across Rwanda leading to one of its darkest periods marked by an orgy of murders which leave a million people dead.
Three million Rwandese are sent fleeing the country. The economy shrinks by 50% with GDP per capita plummeting to $146, while inflation numbers hover around 68% and the poverty rate at a staggering 78%. A clamp down on the perpetrators of this genocide would see the rise of Paul Kagame who brings order and discipline.
Before him is the Herculean task of how to pick the torn lives of Rwanda from there onwards. Fast forward time and events to 2019 and Rwanda is Africa’s shining jewel of global proportions.
How did Rwanda achieve such an historic feat?
This is the question to the answer which Namibian delegates at the just ended economic growth summit took time to digest as chief executive officer for the Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi articulated Rwanda’s development experiment.
Meanwhile, Namibia’s domestic economy has been buffeted by successive quarters of sub-normal growth which has been aggravated by a crippling drought that has left the agriculture sector reeling.
An estimated 700 invited guests converged at the summit where Akamanzi shared some lessons on how Rwanda managed to grow a model economy, post-genocide.
Akamanzi articulated the Rwandan vision for 2020 with the long term developmental goal of building an economy on good governance and a capable state, human resource management and a knowledge base economy, infrastructure development and a productive market oriented agriculture.
Rwanda’s vision, she said, was that of a private sector-led economy that makes the country a middle-income status holder. Such an economy, explained Akamanzi, incorporated gender equality, environmental protection and sustainable natural resource management as well as science and technology.
“Adopting innovative home-grown solutions has been key to Rwanda’s transformation,” she expressed.
These solutions were implemented across key sectors covering community empowerment, peace building and social cohesion, governance and public service delivery as well as the economy and business reforms. Rwanda’s transformation impacted economic growth which was the highest in Africa in 2018 at 8.6% and averaged 7% over the last decade, she said.
“Growth has been driven by private capital and labour. Industry has grown six-fold, now accounting for roughly N$1.5 billion of GDP,” she said.
The organization that she represents, the Rwanda Development Board was tasked with accelerating private sector led economic transformation through a set of core functions: investments, exports and tourism. Rwanda has focused investments on agro-processing, manufacturing, knowledge based services, tourism, infrastructure, energy and water as well as construction. The country engages on export promotion, export market analyses, facilitation while tourism is built around marketing, conservation, national parks oversight and national park sales and reservation.
She said her country has strong inter-institutional cooperation which means delegated staff are fully empowered to act, government agencies that provide investor services delegate staff while there are PPP negotiations.
She added that what has made Rwanda a success story was that there is also efficient and agile processes.
This, she explained, means that in Rwanda there is a strong focus on eliminating procedures and paper work for business while technology is used to streamline business processes while institutions are virtually integrated.
Another key factor is what she called “excellent service delivery”.
Akamanzi said there is a “commitment to deliver investor services in rapid turn-around time e.g. six hour business registration, 24-hour investment registration, client charter”.
“Rwanda is the second fastest growing economy in Africa. (It is) the most improved nation in human development in the world,” said Akamanzi. Another clear value proposition for Rwanda is that it has a young and growing population, is the 5th safest country to walk at night world-wide, has the lowest debt ratio in the region with stable ratings and as a stable currency.
“Exports increased over the past years and more recently with the made in Rwanda policy. Tourism receipts have experienced very strong growth, growing by 35.6% annually on average since 2000 to 2018. Remittances recorded a 22.1% increase between 2017 and 2018,” she said.
“Rwanda started its ‘doing business reforms journey’ in 2008,” Akamanzi said. Between 2007 and 2010, Rwanda managed to establish its doing business steering committee, implementing administrative and regulatory reforms and automation of services.
Between 2010 and 2016, the country had improved its ranking from 150th to a 76th record breaking jump, became the second easiest country to do business in Africa, top 10 reformer, top 30 globally and continues to prioritise the reform agenda.
In that period, Akamanzi said Rwanda was recognized as the second overall global reformer and most consistent reformer with the highest number of reforms globally.