Rwandan government brings economic development to a devastated country
By Caitlin McKay, Staff Writer
While it is often associated with civil war and genocide, Rwanda is re-branding itself as a vibrant and thriving country. It is all part of the government’s plan to develop Rwanda into a middle income country by the year 2020.
For sure you will not see results in 6 months or one year but slowly. And slowly people are getting it and really the poverty is being eliminated from one level to another, that’s the way it is going
The Rwandan government created Vision 2020, a document that aims to transform the Rwandan economy. The plan is built on 6 pillars – good governance, human resource development, private sector development, infrastructure development, productive and market oriented agriculture, and regional and international integration.
According to the numbers, Vision 2020 seems to be working. In 2011, Rwanda’s GDP grew by % 8.6 and investors have been flocking to spend in the up and coming country. But behind the numbers, what is really happening?
According to some reports, Rwanda’s current strategy does not tackle absolute poverty. Rather, the wealth remains in the hands of the elite and the promised ‘trickle down effect’ has limited potential. But Rwanda was also not built in a day.
“For sure you will not see results in 6 months or one year but slowly. And slowly people are getting it and really the poverty is being eliminated from one level to another; that’s the way it is going,” explained Edda Mukabagwiza, the Rwandan High Commissioner to Canada.
An important component to Vision 2020 is private sector development. In order to have a strong private sector, the government has to make new industries attractive to investors. Rwandan officials have to assure potential investors that the economy is stable and ready for an influx of money.
“The vision that is being developed also has a 2050 vision. It’s a vision to help people know where Rwanda wants to go…when you have a government that is committed from the top level, they are engaged to develop the private sector,” Mukabagwiza said.
But it’s difficult to serve up the Rwandan economy on a development platter when suitable infrastructure is lacking. Unpaved roads and feeble buildings slow down productivity and development. Lack of good infrastructure has been a major challenge to the growth of Rwanda.
“If you want to develop you need infrastructure and we are doing that. When we talk about industry it’s a challenge to investors and that is something we are still working on,” Mukabagwiza said.
While Rwanda appears to be on the right track and has been praised by the international community, some critics worry that the plan undermines the most reliable source of employment – farming. Roughly %90 of Rwandans are subsistence farmers so this issue is a serious concern.
The Rwandan government wants to modernize the agriculture industry, which means more technology and higher productivity. But for subsistence farmers these changes are problematic because they cannot compete with large-scale agriculture. However, Mukabagwiza says it’s time for subsistence farmers to get with the times.
“We used to have survival farming, each individual family used to have their own field where you could have different plants. This is one thing that was a big challenge but we are working on it. What we did was set up consultations to see how we can put all those individual fields together … in a cooperative they can grow much more than just alone,” she said.
While there are some problems with Rwanda’s vision, it has delivered economic development. Mukabagwiza says that Rwanda’s growth can be used as a model for other countries that face similar challenges.
“Rwanda is a country which wants to develop itself, which wants to be a hub of different development programs…which also recognizes that it’s among many other nations and we want also to bring our support and contribution to many other nations,” she said.
Rwanda remains dependent on international aid and as % 44.9 of the population lives below the poverty line, hardship is still widespread. But since 2003 and the implementation of Vision 2020, the GDP has grown by 7-8% every year. After a devastating past, it seems that Rwanda has a bright future.