Monday, May 18, 2009

A Hero?

Africa has to find its own road to prosperity

By Paul Kagame

At recent meetings of the Group of 20 and the International Monetary Fund, world leaders have gathered to discuss the global economic crisis. Unfortunately, it seems that many still believe they can solve the problems of the poor with sentimentality and promises of massive infusions of aid, which often do not materialize. We who live in, and lead, the world’s poorest nations are convinced that the leaders of the rich world and multilateral institutions have a heart for the poor. But they also need to have a mind for the poor.

Dambisa Moyo’s controversial book, Dead Aid, has given us an accurate evaluation of the aid culture today. The cycle of aid and poverty is durable: as long as poor nations are focused on receiving aid they will not work to improve their economies. Some of Ms Moyo’s prescriptions, such as ending all aid within five years, are aggressive. But I always thought this was the discussion we should be having: when to end aid and how best to end it.

Aid has not only often failed to meet its objectives; it has also rarely dealt with the underlying issues of poverty and weak societies. We see this with our neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers – the largest and most expensive presence of its kind in history – treat the symptoms rather than addressing the issues of capacity, self-determination and dignity.

Often, aid has left recipient populations unstable, distracted and more dependent; as Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister of Afghanistan, has pointed out, it can even sever the relationship between democratically elected leadership and the populace.

Do not get me wrong. We appreciate support from the outside, but it should be support for what we intend to achieve ourselves. No one should pretend that they care about our nations more than we do; or assume that they know what is good for us better than we do ourselves. They should, in fact, respect us for wanting to decide our own fate.

At the same time, as I tell our people, nobody owes Rwandans anything. Why should anyone in Rwanda feel comfortable that taxpayers in other countries are contributing money for our well¬being or development? Rwanda is a nation with high goals and a sense of purpose. We are attempting to increase our gross domestic product by seven times over a generation, which increases per capita incomes fourfold. This will create the basis for further innovation and foster trust, civic-mindedness and tolerance, strengthening our society.

Entrepreneurship is the surest way for a nation to meet these goals. Michael Fairbanks’ book, In The River They Swim, which uses Rwanda as one of its examples, highlights the need to respect local wisdom, build a culture of innovation and create investment opportunities in product development, new distribution systems and innovative branding.

Government activities should focus on supporting entrepreneurship not just to meet these new goals, but because it unlocks people’s minds, fosters innovation and enables people to exercise their talents. If people are shielded from the forces of competition, it is like saying they are disabled.

Entrepreneurship gives people the feeling that they are valued and have meaning, that they are as capable, as competent and as gifted as anyone else. Asking our citizens to compete is the same as asking them to go out into the world on behalf of Rwanda and play their part.

We know this is a tremendous challenge given our status as a land-locked nation emerging from conflict, with few natural resources, little specialized infrastructure and low historical investment in education. But, in fact, we have reasons to be optimistic: we have a clear strategy to export based on sustainable competitive advantages. We sell coffee now for high prices to the world’s most demanding purchasers; our tourism experience attracts the best customers in the world and market research reveals that perceptions of Rwandan tea are improving.

This has resulted in wages in key sectors rising at more than 20 percent on an annual basis. We have cut our aid as a percentage of total GDP by half over the past decade, and last year we grew at more than 11 percent even as the world entered a recession.

While this is encouraging, we know the road to prosperity is a long one. We will travel it with the help of a new school of development thinkers and entrepreneurs, with those who demonstrate they have not just a heart, but also a mind for the poor.

The writer is president of Rwanda.

(Source: The Financial Times)


Iddy said...

Look who is talking. I must say I am one of the few who believe Kagame shouldn’t be the president of Rwanda in the first place, but I also need to acknowledge that I agree to most of the argument that he present on this particular article.

The common behavior of aid is to increase government appetite toward spending which at the end of the day get out of control. I think for him to point the finger on Republic of Congo is total hypocritical because to some extent the tumbling of Congo has something to do with Rwanda. I will spare that argument for some other time, let me focus on aid and Africa.

I think he forget to talk about how our crappy governments failed to control the resources properly, provide check and balance and crack down corruption figures. With poor governance it almost impossible to develop prosperity and life happiness to the citizen no matter how much money you received from donors.

One thing that I found very frustrating when it comes to African leaders is the notion that Export will lead economic growth, this is total misleading approach. What we need to do is to empower our citizen, reduce government wasteful spending, channel the resource to the appropriate sectors and increase national savings. Also, we need to crack down all corrupted figures in society and locked them down for life. Also, we need to inspire our citizen toward hard working and provide a good environment for investment.

salama said...

Un H`ero???!!

(Excus`e mon francais mais, il n'est pas un h`ero)

It's unbelievable that, he even has a nerve to talk about DRC.(Yea!, Iddy, look who's talking)?

I can't believe he said he didn't care about what's happening in the Congo, when he was interviewed with BBC. He got so panned on his views and involvement in the region and I guess he kinda lost it, and spit it like it was hot. Well, I guess I should believe, he is a tyrant anyways. He might be seen as a H`ero in his country but he's a coward in other countries.

After that rant, I will agree with him about foreign aid na sisi. They(donors) shouldn't decide for us. They don't even bother to learn a bit more about countries they're trying to help. They rarely travel outside the major cities, to see if rural areas need more of that help.(Which is mainly the case) Of course they have their own self interests but may be they should look on ours least once! (a laughable matter)!

Anthony said...

I prefer to differ with some comments here. While I still wonder if there was no Kagame where would Rwanda be?

Wasn't Kagame responsible for stopping the GENOCIDE?

15 years later, this small landlocked country, with no natural resource of any kind, has a GDP Per Capita of $900 and Tanzania has $1100.

Regardless of his political maneuvers, who would ever thought Rwanda would rebound?

He might have blood on his hands so as any other leader (In my views he is no different than a corrupt leader), but in fairness, at least, his article made sense!

Like they say, you can't solve a problem unless you realize you have one. I have not seem our blood-free democratically elected leaders talk about aid in this manner since Mwalimu.

YES, he is been in power for over 10 years. Maybe he should step down and have the people of Rwanda exercise their democracy like us; we Tanzanians so dearly enjoy by ability to elect our own leaders.

The way I see Rwanda is heading, I am impressed and I will give Kagame the benefit of the doubt! Isn't that fair enough?

Did you check the TIME?,28804,1894410_1893847_1893843,00.html

Anonymous said...

Sentimentalism or selective arguments !!! The posting has nothing to do with the Congo conflict etc !

salama said...

The article doesn't have anything to do with the congo conflict. True, true.
What sense does it make if he's doing a good job in his country while he's been part of the conflict going on in DRC?
We can't deny the fact that Rwanda went through unprecedented events, and for the country to be where it is, it's obviously a major step.
But, we also shouldn't look away on those ugly, inhumane, huge numbers of rapes and death to innocent people(especially women and children) which he's been part of, when he comes to the picture.

Anonymous said...

Congo conflict devalues the very reasons behind the article. To simplify Congo conflict into Kagame affair shows your naivety and if not a biased opinion, in great lakes region politics ! Talking about inhumane, read who are the interahamwe, what they did and what continues to highlight the Eastern Congo conflict ! Let's have a separate and separate discussion about Congo and I guarantee you my apostleship !

Iddy said...

I guess I need to disagree with you on this particular case, the notion that “even though he is a killer but he is a God child doesn’t make sense at this point”. I respect what he said on his article, that there is an urgency of ending dead aid in Africa. However, the messenger who brought the massage he is not that clean.

I can’t agree more concern Rwanda economy; however I will not use GDP as a benchmark of any developing nation economic growth. I will spare this argument for other day.

TIME magazine and many USA paper will always sided with those who respect their policies. In other words, most of these papers are acting like headquarter of propaganda when it comes to American policies.

I am waiting to see IF he will step down. But even if he dicided to become a lifetime president, it is part of democracy as long as people of that area agree with that philosophy. But to this point am happy he is not my president.

Anonymous said...

We dislike some leaders for our personal reasons and that should not be confused with what they have done to their countries. For you, you see Kagame as a killer or with the suspicion that he might stay in power forever ! While we can't predict what happens years from now, for most Rwandans we see him as person who have changed the lives of most. Rwanda has security , cities are more secure than many in the world; corruption is lower than most countries, there is a free education up to senior three, the number of University graduates per year, are more than the numbers from independence to 1990combined, 85 percent of Rwandans have medical insurance, GDP is consistently up, investments are up (volume and quality as well). Regardless what people see - those facts matters to Rwandans.

salama said...


I agree that, I've been biased(I did agree with his aid concept though) also, engaging the congo conflict into this post has been a cheap shot from me, I just had to through that in. And okay, it's a politically naive statement.
But, his relation to the region and what he's been painted to be 'r diametrically opposite concepts.
It'll be interesting to dig deep and have a discussion about Congo.


salama said...

For our continent, every step taken to move forward is highly adored. With all the great things he's been doing for his people, he would've been more respected, if he also respects the lives and dignity of his neighbours.
My views and feelings towards him differ a lot from someone who origins from Rwanda and I TOTALLY respect that. It must be a long and touchy discussion.
For now.. there must be ways to make the world a better place.

Anthony said...


I respectfully agree!
What tempted me to look the other way has been vindicated by anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Opposition to anti-aid campaigner grows
By William Wallis in London

Published: May 22 2009 19:54 | Last updated: May 22 2009 19:54

A swell of opposition is building in the aid world to a new protagonist who has thrown down a strident challenge to the rock stars and liberal economists who have long dominated debate over foreign assistance to developing countries.

Galled by the ease with which Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist and former investment banker, has risen to prominence this year, activists are circulating detailed critiques of her ideas and mass mailing African non-government organisations to mobilise support against her.

Aid opponent spreads theory far and fast - May-22Arena blog: Is aid working? - May-22Lunch with the FT: Dambisa Moyo - May-20Yet it is proving hard to suppress the hyperactive graduate of Oxford and Harvard, who pops up weekly in a new capital to promote her book Dead Aid – the title itself an affront to rock star Bob Geldof’s Live Aid campaigns.

The former Goldman Sachs strategist has become something of a phenomenon. The economist hit the New York Times bestseller list in April, was named this month on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people and has been appointed to the board of brewer SAB Miller.

Have your say
Is international official development assistance working? Post your reply in the Arena blog.
Within days of reading about her, Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, flew Ms Moyo out to address his government. Col Muammar Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, invited her to Tripoli this month.

Ms Moyo argues that official development assistance has fostered dependency and perpetuated poor governance. She proposes a blend of commercial debt, microfinance, fairer trade and investment in its place.

Her ideas are not especially new. But the publicity she has attracted has posed challenges to an industry accustomed to having the most vocal campaigners on its side.

Activists fear that developed countries seeking an excuse to slash aid budgets have found one in Ms Moyo, at a time when Africa is especially in need. They dismiss her book as simplistic – even dangerous. Some critics said her ideas were gaining prominence because of the novelty of a passionate, young African woman taking on the aid establishment.

Mr Geldof’s aid advocacy organisation, One, has been mobilising opposition to her messages. Academic Jeffrey Sachs is among those who have denounced her ideas.

“It is ludicrous because we now have leaders like President Kagame supporting the anti-aid campaign ... despite the clear successes of aid in promoting Rwanda’s growth,” he told the Financial Times.

But Ms Moyo has struck a chord in Africa.

William Easterly, a US academic, said: “The aid establishment is scared to death of the public relations disaster that a growing movement of independent critical African professionals would be.” .