In Rwanda, the widely accepted belief in government is that when other countries walk, the country must run to keep up.
Despite its tumultuous history and relatively small size, Rwanda exhibits bigger ambition than Nigeria which is roughly 16 times the size of the East African nation.
The Rwandan economy probably expanded 8.5 percent in 2019, according to official estimates shared for the first time by President Paul Kagame, who welcomed local and international guests to the country’s 17th annual national dialogue session in Kigali on Thursday, December 19.
The possibility of displacing Ethiopia as Africa’s fastest growing economy this year is not enough, according to Kagame, who implied a new double-digit target had been set for 2020.
“We should strive to achieve no less than 10 percent growth because we have a unique history and challenges that mean while others walk, we must run,” Kagame said.
“It means we are not satisfied with our economic growth, neither do we over-celebrate the improvement in our ease of doing business or the high rate of gender inclusion, so we don’t get distracted and forget we still have so much work to do,” he said.
Rwanda is also tipped to grow 8.5 percent in 2019 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The estimate was revised upward from 7 percent following better-than-expected growth in construction, manufacturing and services. Though growth of 8.5 percent is a slowdown from 8.6 percent in 2018, it may be enough to make Rwanda the fastest growing economy in Africa this year.
On the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, Rwanda comes second in Africa and 38th globally. The country ranks third globally in giving land titles. The ease of doing business has spurred private sector growth which has helped the economy grow rapidly since the end of a painful genocide in 1994, when an estimated 800,000 people were killed. According to government data, the economy has averaged 8 percent growth in the last 18 years. In that time, the rate of poverty has more than halved to 38 percent.
“It is important to note that Rwanda doesn’t boast the resources of all the 37 countries ahead of us in the global ranking, yet we are there. It shows how we are constantly punching above our weight in international rankings,” said Claire Akamamzi, CEO of the Rwandan Development Board.
Some 1,646 miles away is Nigeria, where the government is often criticised for lacking ambition. Africa’s largest economy probably expanded 2 percent in 2019, which will be the highest annual growth since 2015. For Nigeria’s size and population, 2 percent growth means people are getting poorer as economic growth is unable to match population growth rate of 2.6 percent annually.
The government, whose economic growth target for 2020 is a meagre 3 percent, has taken almost every opportunity to celebrate the growth rate this year, citing recovery from an economic recession in 2016 that owes more to the rebound in crude oil prices than government policy.
The recovery has also not been inclusive. Average per capita numbers show a consistent contraction since 2015 and the country overtook India in 2018 as the world’s poverty capital despite having only a fifth of the latter’s population.
Nigeria’s ease of doing business ranking is also excessively celebrated for rising 15 spots to 131 in 2019. Business leaders say the progress has done little to mask infrastructure challenges and anti-private sector government policies that have stifled business activity.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the goal for ease of doing business was for top 70 by 2023. President Kagame’s target for Rwanda is to be within the top 10.
“In an ideal scenario, Nigeria should be targeting economic growth of 7 percent at least and strive to be within top 10 on the ease of doing business ranking,” a Nigerian who relocated to Rwanda in 2018 said.
“Since I left Nigeria, my business has thrived on the back of 24-hour power supply and supportive government policies in Rwanda and I have no regrets leaving Nigeria,” the person said.
Rwanda is almost unrecognisable since the 1994 genocide, with key milestones achieved based on the country’s Vision 2020, an economic blueprint drafted in 2000 with targets set for economic and social development. Within the period the Vision 2020 was implemented, the country has recorded infrastructure development whether it’s in roads or airports, sports and entertainment.
The Rwandan national budget is now 84 percent funded by the government despite limited resources. The target is to fund at least 90 percent of the 2020 budget solely through government resources.
Access to education has also improved. Kagame acknowledged the rising number of children in school but said the quality of education must be improved on.
“Our education advancement is very slow, we are walking but we need to run,” he said.
Rwanda currently ranks among the top 10 countries globally in areas of gender equality and has a significant number of female members in the judiciary and executive council. However, the government has set a target to be in top five countries in the near term.
LOLADE AKINMURELE, IFEOMA OKEKE & OLUFIKAYO OWOEYE, in Kigali