Rwanda, the East African country devastated by genocide which claimed over 1 million lives about two decades ago, but which has recorded remarkable growth in its economy and government, holds a lot of lessons for fellow African countries, particularly Nigeria, on what is possible in terms of economic growth and development.
From close to zero growth as at the end of the genocide in 1995, the Rwandan economy has expanded by an average of 8 percent annually, in more than 10 years. This has been made possible by the significant level of political stability which the country has been enjoying over the last decade.
Rwanda runs an all-inclusive government, where private individuals, technocrats and politicians from opposition political parties are embraced in governance, and cabinet members are given targets to accomplish, on measurable performance yardsticks.
The government of the country is presently working with the international community to establish an economic system that will take it to the status of a middle income country, with per capita GDP of up to $1,200.
“Rwanda also seeks to play a crucial role in the transformation of Africa,” said Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwandan High Commissioner to Nigeria, during a courtesy visit to the corporate head office of BusinessDay Media in Lagos. Kamanzi added, “Rwanda has the capacity to do this and that explains why our president, Paul Kagame, has been selected to lead the process of reforming the African Union.”
He further observed that there are practical activities that the government has embarked upon to lift the people from poverty. An example is ‘Girinka’, a programme that encourages people to own cattle by allocating cattle to families. Cattle are a traditional measure of wealth in Rwanda.
“Cattle is a means of economic prosperity,” Kamanzi explained, adding, “having sufficient number of cattle means having fertiliser for the farms. It means getting milk, which is food, and it is a way of fighting malnutrition”, he said.
Coming from the economic rubble of the genocide, the Rwandan Government, led by Paul Kagame, properly defined its trajectory and laid a solid foundation for becoming a country that gives its citizens their deserved dignity.
“As a result of this, Rwanda fulfilled the requirements of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) even before the UN stipulated them,” Kamanzi said, adding that with their ‘Vision 2020’, funds are earmarked for the development of infrastructure in specific sectors of the economy, to transform Rwanda into a middle income country by 2020”.
The Rwandan High Commissioner also told BusinessDay that the government recognised the importance of technology in economic development, and that this has made it invest heavily in ICT education.
According to him, the government of Rwanda has built close to 5,000km of fibre optic cables, which have seen internet penetration rise from 7 per cent in 2011 to about 39 per cent. The mobile financial service subscribers grew from 639,000 in 2011 to 9.7 million in 2016.
“In 2013, the government initiated the ‘Smart Kigali Programme’ that modernizes the lifestyle of Kigali City dwellers and visitors, through the use of ICT for better service delivery. This programme has already registered success where free Wi-Fi is now provided in public places, including commercial buildings, bus stations, public transport, hotels etc. For instance, until now, over 485 buses are connected to WI-FI and several other public places”, he said.
He added that a local ICT awareness programme, dubbed “Koranubuhanga” was initiated, which rotates across the 30 districts. It is an avenue where citizens are informed of existing ICT solutions by vendors. On average, over 10,0000 citizens participate in a single campaign and it’s conducted each quarter.
“There is also the ‘IREMBO’ programme that seeks to push mobile telephone penetration in rural areas,” Kamanzi said, adding, “the effect of this is that farmers get to know the markets and how they can access them.”
The unusual success achieved by Rwanda, according to Kamanzi, came because the government put in place, the right system to ensure that business is done in an environment devoid of avoidable hitches. For instance, privatisation was pursued religiously, post-genocide; that clearly defined the place of private operators in business. Government only acts as an enabler of business with relevant legislations on tax and business registration.
“It takes just six hours to register a business in Rwanda,” he disclosed. “In addition to that, a number of other policies bordering on women empowerment strategy and e-commerce are currently underway.
Rwanda is ranked first and third in ICT promotion and Competitive Economies globally, by the World Economic Report 2015, and first for Continental Social Media, by Africa-SMAA Report 2015; the country is ranked second in Africa for ease of doing business, by the World Bank Report 2015. It is ranked number One in Open Data in Africa by the Open Data Institute Report 2016.
Kamanzi said the country is looking to leverage other African nations to tap into best practices, move access to power in the country from 23 per cent presently, to 70 per cent by 2020.
CHUKA UROKO & INNOCENT UNAH