Rwanda is a resilient, forward-looking country. April 2012 marked 18 years since the Rwandan genocide—a catastrophe where roughly 1,000,000 people were killed in a period of three months. Today the nation is experiencing an economic renaissance, forging ahead with unparalleled tenacity and efficiency. Under the robust and stable leadership of President Paul Kagame, myriad performance indicators affirm Rwanda as a choice destination for foreign investment and international business.
Much of Rwanda’s success in promoting the country as a desirable business and investment destination is due to radical reforms introduced to propel private sector growth. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is the government agency charged with fast-tracking economic development in Rwanda.
Africa Agribusiness Magazine recently had the opportunity to communicate with Ms. Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer of the RDB.
AAM: Much has been written about Rwanda’s success and growth over the past 10 years. Tell us why you think Rwanda is surpassing its neighboring countries.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi: Rwanda’s success can be attributed to the following:
- The government’s commitment to reducing poverty and improving standards of living by fostering a private sector-led process of economic transformation as stipulated in its Vision 2020.
- Rwanda is also politically stable with well-functioning institutions and zero tolerance for corruption.
- The country has continued to observe sustained growth of 8.16% average year-on-year real GDP growth rate from 2007- 2011, as well as stable inflation andexchange rates.
- The investor climate is friendly, as evidenced by the 2012 World Bank Doing Business Report where Rwanda was ranked 45th out of 183 countries globally, up from 150 in 2008. This makes Rwanda the 2nd most reformed economy in the world over a period of 6 years from 2006-2011, after only Georgia. Similarly, the US Economic Freedom of the World Report and the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report both rank Rwanda as the third most economically free and most competitive country in the Sub-Saharan African region.
- Rwanda has a market of over 10 million people with a rapidly growing middle class and is a hub for rapidly integrating East Africa since it is located centrally bordering three countries in East Africa, and the country is a part of EAC Common Market and Customs Union with market potential of over 125 million people.
All these factors make Rwanda an increasingly attractive destination for local and foreign investments. In 2011 alone, registered foreign projects were worth USD 371 million, while total investments, including local, were USD 626 million. We continue to invest in core public infrastructure (energy/power, national fiber optic backbone, and transportation—including aviation and investment in a national carrier, RwandAir) which all make us more competitive and connected.
AAM: It seems that Rwanda and the RDB do an exceptional job of luring companies to set up and register in Rwanda, particularly with the One Stop Centre Services, but what happens after registration?Please explain a bit more of the Aftercare Servicesand examples of how the RDB has helped companies with implementation challenges.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi: RDB believes that an investor’s decision to invest or to implement his/her project does not represent the end of our responsibilities. In fact, in many senses, it is only the beginning of a sustained professional partnership. Aftercare Services at RDB ensure that once an investor decides to invest, the process goes as smoothly as possible by helping them with any additional questions or problems they may encounter.
In an effort to give investors better services,RDB has an allocated Key Account Manager for every project; these selected RDB staff members manage a portfolio of existing or imminent investors. Account Managers are responsible for assisting investors with issues involving government authorities such as:
- Land, real estate & utilities
- Recruitment & training
- Introduction to government stakeholders
- Helping to find local partners
- Access to local services
- Explanation of regulatory requirements
These Account Managers call investors frequently to find out if they have issues and follow up to ensure all issues are dealt with. This is to resolve challenges that may arise with implementation of the projects.
AAM: Tell us the role agriculture plays in the future of your country and how RDB and the Ministry of Agriculture work together to ensure success.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi: Agriculture is a dominant economic activity in Rwanda as the majority of population resides in rural districts. Consequently, agricultural development is considered as a key pillar in growth and in significantly reducing poverty in the country.Over the past five years, average annual agricultural growth has been 5%,underpinned by strong growth in production of staple food crops.
The vision is to replace subsistence farming by a fully monetized, commercial agricultural sector by 2020. We believe that developing agriculture will permit bonus effects, beginning with the development of agribusiness that can then overflow into other sectors of the economy.
The key policy areas necessary for the transformation include:
- Institutional and legal reforms to ensure security of land ownership
- Development of a market in land assets
- Extensive research and extension services
- Investment in rural infrastructures
- Use of high yielding varieties and intensive input use, especially fertilizers
- Promotion of agro-based manufacturing
- Environmental control measures to halt the decline in soil fertility
- Rural financing schemes and markets
It is expected that the above priority policy areas will not only be supportive to agriculture, but will also benefit the whole of the rural economy.
Rwanda is shifting towards private sector led agriculture growth where the private sector will play a greater role in fuelling agriculture growth. RDB and the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) are working together with other stakeholders to ensure this growth.
MINAGRI is the institution that represents government in public investments for agriculture,while RDB is charged with attracting private investments.RDB works with MINAGRI to gather packaged information on programs and policies that affect the private investor, such as infrastructure programs, crop intensification programs, land issues, etc. With this information, along with information on the business climate, we are able to attract and facilitate investors who are interested in starting agricultural projects in Rwanda.
AAM: Where do you see Rwanda in 10 years?
Ms. Clare Akamanzi: I see the future Rwanda as a modern, strong and united nation, proud of its fundamental values, politically stable and with high levels of savings and private investment and lower external aid.
In 10 years, among other things, we hope to become a middle-income country and to have fully achieved the following pillars of our vision 2020:
- Reconstruction of the nation and its social capital anchored on good governance, underpinned by a capable state.
- Transformation of agriculture into a productive, high value, market oriented sector, with forward linkages to other sectors.
- Development of an efficient private sector spearheaded by competitiveness and entrepreneurship.
- Comprehensive human resources development, encompassing education, health, and ICT skills aimed at public sector, private sector and civil society. This will be integrated with demographic, health and gender issues.
- Infrastructural development, entailing improved transport links, energy and water supplies and ICT networks.
- Promotion of regional economic integration and cooperation.
These will all be affected by a number of crosscutting issues including, gender equality and sustainable environmental and natural resource management.