Obinna Chima who was in Kigali, Rwanda recently, writes that the East-African country is an example of good governance that should be emulated
As Patrick, a Nigerian journalist was about to board an aircraft back to Lagos after the coverage of World Economic Forum on Africa, he decided to give out the Rwandan currency he had with him. He however became surprised that none of the Rwanda airport officials accepted the money from him.
“They all refused to collect the money saying that people around would view it as a bribe. Although I tried to convince those I spoke to that it is a gift because I won’t be able to convert it when I get to Lagos, the still rejected the money. This is completely different from what we see in Lagos where the airport officials are the ones begging you for cash,” Patrick who expressed disbelief said.
The experience of Patrick is truly the picture of the new Rwanda. One country that is regularly praised as a shining example of good governance, on a continent not generally known for it, is Rwanda.
The East African country currently is the fourth least corrupt country in Africa and 44th globally according to the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The report showed an improvement in Rwanda’s percentage score from 49 to 54 per cent. The CPI, which covers 168 countries around the world, tackles public perceptions for corruption in the public sector.
In addition, Rwanda’s performance in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings in recent years has been exemplary, drawing attention from international observers and investors alike. In the overall performance, Rwanda is still the best performing country in the East African region as well as third easiest place to do business in Africa.
The leap in governance achieved by the country with a population of about 12 million, has been attributed to the policies of its president, Paul Kagame.
Kagame, a softly-spoken former soldier, assumed power in 2000 and since then has overseen one of Africa’s most compelling stories of economic growth. Since the turn of the millennium, Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product growth has averaged more than seven per cent per year. It had hit 11.2 per cent in 2008, until the effects of the global economic downturn began to impact on the country, curtailing growth to 6.9 per cent in 2015.
Rwanda is a small, land-locked economy in the middle. It lost about one million people and millions of others were displaced and impoverished by genocide in 1994. Rwanda has no upstream oil industry or refinery activities. On the downstream side, it imports all of its commercial energy in the form of refined petroleum products from Kenya and Tanzania.
Speaking in a recent interview, the president narrated how his leadership style contributed to the improved governance in the country: “I started with being together and unified. The country had historically been divided and divisive politics contributed to the tragedy of 1994. So I was trying to bring people’s attention to the importance of being together as a nation, even if there is diversity in our society.
“We are different, we may think differently, but at the end of the day, we have to bring our energies together for the common good instead of breaking our nation apart. We’ve learned lessons from the genocide.
“Second, I mentioned the importance of accountability. We won’t achieve unity and progress unless, in the exercise of our freedoms, we are able to think about the interests of others and not just think about ourselves. There comes a point when every one of us has to be responsible and accountable to each other.
“We have to hold ourselves accountable so that we don’t end up hurting somebody else. This originates from our own history where division was the order of the day and people had been told to hurt each other. People started seeing other people as different, and not only different, but they thought they should get rid of them.
“Accountability was important and was lacking at the time. That’s why I talked about accountability, so that everyone has a sense of responsibility, whether they are leaders or citizens. Number three was about thinking big. We came out of that tragedy 21 years ago and have come a long way to arrive at where we are today, which gives you the sense that nothing is impossible if people set their minds to do something that is good for them. Nothing is impossible to achieve.”
Speaking at the recently concluded WEF on Africa, the Rwandan president called on African not to still be playing catch-up even when the fifth revolution is around the corner.
Kagame called for “a continent free of pity and apprehension, a place of opportunity and partnership.”
The transformative power of technology lies at the core of the vision of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, as articulated by the Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, Kagame said.
However, it should be understood that technology is not a “magic bullet” in itself, but a tool for wisely tackling the challenges faced by Africa.
On a practical level, digital solutions in financial markets need to be significantly scaled up, said Kagame. Efficient, reliable and stable capital markets are key to providing access to funding for growth, and ICT makes such markets viable. At the same time, he added, development and growth are about more than machines – Africa’s people are an enormous resource – and can be achieved through “good politics and accountability.”
Also speaking in one of the sessions, former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, said the leadership qualities displayed by the Rwandan government should be embraced by Africa’s policy makers and leaders. Bankole was at WEF to share his views and experience in the informal, collaborative environment the WEF provides. He said WEF’s recognition that political figures, business leaders and citizens all have a role to play in continuing Africa’s development is embodied in his broad and deep experience.
Speaking to THISDAY, the Chief Executive Officer of P&R Forex Bureau Limited, Mr. Aloys Ngoga said: “The economy is stable, even though the drop in commodity prices has affected the volume of inflow of foreign currency into the country. Dollar is scarce to get. It is now more difficult to get dollars from banks.
“That has also affected business across every sector. It is a general problem across the sub-region. But I must commend the president and his team. They are doing all they can to support businesses despite the challenge posed by the drop in commodity prices.”