Rwanda rocks, and other lessons from WEF

CityPress - - Business - DEWALD VAN RENSBURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of “Team South Africa” at the re­cent World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) on Africa agree on one thing: Rwanda is a role model – and Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame, who is set to ex­tend his 16-year rule up to 2024 (fol­low­ing his de­ci­sion to run for a third term in the coun­try’s 2017 elec­tions) has some­thing to do with it.

The Rwan­dan cap­i­tal, Ki­gali, hosted this year’s meet­ing. South Africa made up 20% of the 1 200 del­e­gates, most of whom came from the pri­vate sec­tor.

At a de­brief­ing event hosted by Wits Busi­ness School this week, some of them heaped praise on Rwanda.

Cas Coova­dia, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the Bank­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of SA, said South Africa could learn from Rwanda about is­sues such as pub­lic broad­band, pun­ish­ing cor­rup­tion and fos­ter­ing a na­tional “sin­gle­ness of pur­pose”.

“With broad­band ... you get into the bus [in Ki­gali] and there is a sign that you are con­nected, no mat­ter where you are. There is no rea­son we can­not do that.”

He added that a Rwan­dan min­is­ter’s ad­vice on how to deal with cor­rup­tion was also in­spi­ra­tional.

“The min­is­ter said: ‘Lead by ex­am­ple, im­ple­ment and let the pun­ish­ment be way out of pro­por­tion.’ “It is not rocket sci­ence. We can do it.” Other at­ten­dees were wowed by Ki­gali’s clean­li­ness, which the city is known for. “Rwanda is a fan­tas­tic place to go to. It is mind-bog­gling to see how clean the city is and to see the so­cial co­he­sion of the pop­u­la­tion ... un- der the lead­er­ship of the pres­i­dent,” said Ni­co­laas Kru- ger, CEO of JSE-listed in­surance group MMI Hold­ings.

“Some peo­ple talk about a Sin­ga­pore on the African con­ti­nent... ” added Kruger.

Jeff Radebe, min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency for per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion and mon­i­tor­ing, punted Ki­gali’s clean streets. Some at­tribute it to a ban on plas­tic bags and manda­tory street-clean­ing by cit­i­zens one Satur­day every month.

Oth­ers, such as Hu­man Rights Watch, in a re­port last year, at­tribute it to the prac­tice of round­ing up street chil­dren, ven­dors, beg­gars, sex work­ers and oth­ers, and de­tain­ing them at a quasi-prison called the Gikondo Tran­sit Cen­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to Radebe, “po­lit­i­cal will and de­ci­sive­ness, and the fo­cus on eco­nomic growth and in­vest­ment are part of the suc­cess story”.

He added that there “is vis­i­ble trans­for­ma­tion ev­ery­where” since he first vis­ited Ki­gali in 2007 as part of for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s Cab­i­net. “It is work­ing ef­fec­tively with neigh­bour­ing states,” he said.

“One ex­am­ple: one sin­gle cell­phone call is charged as a lo­cal call across the re­gion. This is trail­blaz­ing. In the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity this is a leaf we can take.”

Radebe said the South African gov­ern­ment had come out of the past few WEF meet­ings with at least two con­crete gains.

One is the Ur­ban Wa­ter Al­liance, a frame­work of pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships that Radebe pitched to the global pri­vate sec­tor at last year’s WEF Africa.

The other is a part­ner­ship with US con­sul­tancy Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group to get some parts of the so­called North-South Cor­ri­dor off the ground. The cor­ri­dor is a group of 300 trans­port and en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture projects link­ing south and east Africa.

The Bos­ton firm had done work for other gov­ern­ments on the sim­i­lar Cen­tral Cor­ri­dor of prospec­tive in­fra­struc­ture projects link­ing Tan­za­nia, Uganda, Rwanda, Bu­rundi and the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo (DRC).

The South African del­e­ga­tion at WEF in 2014 caught wind of this and asked for sim­i­lar re­search.

WEF is a think-tank sup­ported by ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions across the world and is best known for its an­nual meet­ing in Davos, Switzer­land. Its smaller re­gional meet­ings also take place an­nu­ally, in­clud­ing one in Africa.

In ad­di­tion to Radebe, four min­is­ters and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa at­tended.

“What [the Bos­ton group] has done with the pres­i­dency and the De­vel­op­ment Bank of SA is to make sure we are get­ting these projects bank­able sooner rather than later,” said Radebe.

“There is a grow­ing ap­petite by the pri­vate sec­tor to fi­nance these projects. What is needed is a bou­quet of well-de­vel­oped projects.”

Ac­cord­ing to Radebe, 34 projects from the Cor­ri­dor plan had been se­lected and the four most promis­ing ones were now be­ing fast-tracked.

Adam Ik­dal, manag­ing part­ner of The Bos­ton Con­sult­ing in South Africa, told City Press that the firm was about to de­liver a re­port on these four that iden­ti­fies ob­sta­cles to get­ting them funded and built.

These are the Grand Inga hy­dropower project in the DRC; the sec­ond phase of the Le­sotho High­lands project; a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and up­grade of the Beit­bridge bor­der cross­ing; and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an Africa-wide rolling stock plan that would see Transnet be­come the provider of trains to the en­tire con­ti­nent.

This re­port would be pre­sented to the in­vestor com­mu­nity at a con­fer­ence later this year, said Ik­dal.

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