Rwanda: a model for African states?
Twenty years ago, on April 7, 1994, Rwanda began tearing itself apart with a devastating genocide. Over the course of 100 days, an estimated one million people were killed, 250,000 women were raped and millions fled the country. The international community did not intervene, and much of the world considered the East African country – one of the poorest in the world – to be a lost cause. But Rwanda has proven many sceptics wrong with an interesting story of transformation.
At the economic level, it has been working methodically towards attaining middle-income country status by 2020, while it recorded an impressive GDP growth rate of 7 per cent last year, a figure that is predicted to rise to 7.5 per cent this year. As evidence of its commitment to strengthening the private sector, the country has claimed 32nd place among 189 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report. This demonstrates the strength and openness of the business environment.
In health care, the Rwanda is steadily moving towards meeting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Even though foreign assistance was slow in coming, Aids-related mortality fell by 82 per cent between 2000 and 2012. Now, nearly every Rwandan infant is immunised against 10 diseases. Its tourism sector is picking up pace with an estimated 620,000 people visiting the country in 2010, according to World Bank figures.
No less impressive is the progress made in terms of healing the wounds of the past and fostering social cohesion. Rwanda’s achievements have created a significant chronicle in Africa, encouraging the view that even the smallest and poorest countries can make tremendous progress.
While there is much to be proud of, it’s hard to lose sight of the remaining challenges. Concerns have been raised over human-rights violations and oppression against those who oppose the president, Paul Kagame. Even though Mr Kagame said he would step down when his second seven-year term ends in 2017, many fear that he might manipulate his way to stay beyond that date.
There is reason to be concerned. Most of Africa’s post-independence leaders have been unwilling to allow political transition. If Rwanda can do that, it will not only reaffirm its narrative, but set a model for other countries in the region to follow.
Updated: April 5, 2014 04:00 AM