Is Rwanda the new frontier of African development?

Rwanda is a new-born nation

Despite this small African republic existing since 1963, only in the last twenty years has it been trying to rebuild its own national identity after the bloody genocide of 1994 which tore apart the country. After the genocide Paul Kagame was sworn in as president for the first time (he has been elected three times) and he proved his aspiration to lead Rwanda to a future of economic and social growth through a list of economic and political reforms.

Years after the first mandate Kagame seems to have reached his purpose; the national GDP has grown by the 8% in the last 20 years and the national Rwandan currency is quoted on the Eurobond market – a significant symptom of the European trust in Rwandan economy and a great possibility for Rwanda to receive more FDI.

What can be considered innovative in Rwanda is the importance given by the government to technological development rather than industrialisation. In its five-years plan the government is trying to direct foreign investment towards technology and finance. Kigali, the main city, has become a technological hub for all Rwanda and the government is investing in a 4G and optical fibre coverage.

The social root of expansion

This Rwandan expansion is based on an intense social and cultural programme which has embraced education and gender equality. In modern Rwandan school secularism and ethnic division between Hutu and Tutsi has been abandoned and nowadays Rwandan history teachers focus on the creation of a new Rwandan common identity and enhancement of a common past. With this new education, the Rwandan government aim is to maintain social stability. 

Secondly, Rwanda is the 6th country in the world for gender equality. After the genocide, the number of women still alive exceeds the number of men. For this reason, women had been elected in parliament and found themselves taking part in political life. This role of women in political life still remains, which means that the government can design more efficient economic reforms that represent a wider segment of population.

What future may come

Paul Kagame decided to create the East African Exchange, allowing farmers to get governmental financing. Rwanda, despite being described as an African miracle, is a poor country. Subsistence farming still feeds the majority of population and there hasn’t been a real project of industrialisation. The major risk of this situation is investing too much in large-scale projects and forgetting to create common wealth among lower social classes.

Though Rwanda benefits from political and social stability, the United States and other members of international community do not approve of the third consecutive mandate of Paul Kagame, believing that it will lead to political instability in the future.

Is Rwanda the new frontier of African development? We may understand it better in the years to come.

By Chiara Campanelli