BusinessDay

Leadership and economic growth: What Nigeria can learn from Rwanda (II)

Even though Rwanda has its own economic weaknesses – its geographical location as a landlocked country, insufficient finance and inadequate foreign exchange, it definitely got on the right trajectory to economic development by adopting some sound and intentional policies.

Zero tolerance for hate speech and corruption

In 2015, Rwanda was ranked the fourth least corrupt country in Africa. A report by Aljazeera described Paul Kagame’s leadership style as intransigent on corruption, populism and divisive speech as his mission was to act on the people’s mandate on protecting Rwandans from genocide by all means. The Guardian of the UK revealed in a report that right from primary schools, pupils are discouraged from identifying themselves on whether they are Tutsi or Hutu rather they should be focused on how to build their country. According to a report by Chr. Michelson Institute, Rwanda’s officials can be dismissed even on the premises of a vague suspicion of corruption. The report further added that over 700 of its police officers were dismissed between 2010 and 2017 due to the collection of bribes.

Favourable investment climate

In an attempt to boost exports, the government relaxed its restrictions on foreign exchange while it continues to give high-end commitment to private sector investment. According to the UNDP report, Rwanda’s long-term goal is to transform its economy from its 90 percent dependence on subsistence agriculture into a modern society that would be welcoming to foreign investments and opportunities. Presently, 81.3 percent of the country’s population has access to food security while its agricultural sector has lifted about 45 percent of its population out of poverty.

Improved access to technology

In 2015, the government of Rwanda introduced the Smart City Master plan, a strategic development process, which lays out the efforts to provide its citizens with a higher quality of life to its citizens and businesses through enhanced technology and data access, which revolves around seven key areas of Rwanda’s economy, which are agriculture, finance, trade, health, education, government, women and youth empowerment in ICT. Similarly, the Kigali Innovation City was launched in the year 2021 to promote research and development and encourage technological start-ups. “Indeed the Kigali Innovation City is a significant cornerstone of Rwanda’s foundation as an international technology and innovation hub” says a report by PwC. In 2018, Volkswagen launched its car manufacturing plant in Kigali. A report by Borgen revealed that the investment, worth $20 million, was expected to provide at least 1,000 jobs for its citizens.

Improved access to education and women empowerment

According to a report by The Guardian of UK, valuable efforts have been made to boost the country’s education sector as over 97 percent of its children have primary school education, thereby making it the highest primary school enrolment in Africa. Another report by the United Nations further revealed how Rwanda launched its one laptop per child programme in a bid to enable them to get access to online quality education. Presently, almost fifty-two percent of its parliament members are made up of women as the UNDP reported that Rwanda’s strong position on women empowerment and gender equality has resulted in significant positive strides for ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’.

Indeed, Rwanda’s phenomenal economic growth post genocide has been nothing short of an economic miracle as the country only recorded its first economic recession since 1994 in 2020 which was only as a result of the pandemic, according to the International Trade Administration.

The same, however, cannot be said of Nigeria, which has still not been able to properly manage its tribal differences even after surviving a major civil war, which could have cost the country its national cohesion. It seems to be that the same issue that led to the civil war still remains at large as Nigeria’s diversity over the years has often been abused by its political class who continue to exploit its ethnic and religious lines to canvass votes. Undeniably, Nigeria’s ethnic diversity, which has not been properly managed, has turned out to be one of the greatest threats to its development.

Also, while Rwanda was able to build its economy without any competitive natural resource as such, Nigeria, which ranks amongst the world’s largest oil producers apart from other natural resources, has still not been able to figure it all out. Instead its rentier state system, which is largely oil-based, has continued to contribute to its distributional inequality, social unrest and poor macro-economic trajectory. The sad news is that the future is no longer in ‘oil’. “Emerging multinationals in sub-Saharan Africa are escaping the ‘commodities curse’ and breaking into sectors like digital, telecom and financial services,” said ‘Knowledge at Wharton’, a business journal from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This implies that the coast might not really be clear for a country like Nigeria whose economy largely depends on crude oil exploration.

Similarly, in terms of leadership, Nigeria has not been able to pull out the Kagame stunt as its great tendency to become Africa’s investment hub continues to be hampered by its corrupt and incompetent leaders whose perspective of leadership is on how to selfishly amass wealth. Indeed, Nigeria’s poor leadership has continued to hamper its development trajectory as the country still continues to grapple with so many socio-economic challenges, ranging from low human development index due to its poor investment in education and health to inadequate infrastructures and high poverty rate. As Nigeria approaches its 2023 general elections, the country needs to vote for leaders who can provide opportunities for progressive growth and whose core values would be focused on how to lift the bulk of the nation’s populace out of the “peculiar mess” of poverty and insecurity.

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