A tale of two coun­tries: Rwanda and South Africa, 24 years on

Sunday Times - - Opinion - SIPHO DIBAKWANE Dibakwane is the founder of Im­pumelelo Ed­u­ca­tional Trust

In 1994, South Africa got free­dom. The whole world cel­e­brated with us and ap­plauded our tran­si­tion from the cruel and racist apartheid regime to democ­racy. Free­dom did not come cheap , but the world mar­velled at our ap­proach to ne­go­ti­a­tions and the peace­ful hand­ing over of power.

Also in 1994, Rwanda got into a civil war in which an es­ti­mated 800 000 ci­ti­zens were killed in in­ternecine con­flict. The whole world was left shocked. In 2018, there are some sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences be­tween South Africa and Rwanda.

The Rwan­dans have rec­on­ciled at a na­tional level and there is peace in that coun­try.

Not only is there peace, but the econ­omy of Rwanda is one of the fastest grow­ing in the sub-Sa­ha­ran re­gion. Last year the jour­nal Do­ing Busi­ness rated Rwanda as the sec­ond-best coun­try in which to do busi­ness in Africa.

Rwanda is the place to be. Pity they do not have a sea; if they did, their eco­nomic growth might have been even more im­pres­sive.

But what makes Rwanda an in­vestor’s choice?

The an­swer is sim­ple. The Rwan­dans have set them­selves a vi­sion, the para­mount aim of which is to move the tra­jec­tory of Rwanda from a low­in­come, agri­cul­ture-based econ­omy to a knowl­edge-based, ser­vice-ori­ented econ­omy with mid­dle-in­come sta­tus by 2020.

The peo­ple of Rwanda are driv­ing this vi­sion them­selves.

They are the masters of their own des­ti­na­tion. They have ral­lied around this vi­sion and want to see it re­alised.

Every­one, from the pri­vate sec­tor to civil so­ci­ety, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and or­di­nary ci­ti­zens, young and old, ed­u­cated and not ed­u­cated, is con­tribut­ing to de­velop their coun­try. Every­one is rolling up their sleeves. The na­tional monthly clean­ing cam­paign is a mar­vel, a con­cept ini­ti­ated to in­stil pa­tri­o­tism and ac­tive cit­i­zenry.

It is no sur­prise that in­vestors are stream­ing into Rwanda. The World Bank in Africa re­port of 2017 in­di­cated that Rwanda’s GDP grew 4% in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017.

There is cer­tainty and con­sis­tency at all lev­els con­cern­ing pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion. This has in­vig­o­rated the pri­vate sec­tor to in­vest mas­sively in in­fra­struc­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy.

In South Africa, the pri­vate sec­tor con­trib­utes to wi­den­ing the gap be­tween the haves and have-nots.

Ac­cess to the in­ter­net is rel­a­tively cheap in Rwanda. In South Africa, in­ter­net ac­cess is very ex­pen­sive.

How and when we will fully en­ter the groove of the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion re­mains to be seen.

In South Africa, we are still de­bat­ing whether free pro­vi­sion of Wi-Fi in­fra­struc­ture is good or bad. Our in­ter­net providers seem hell­bent on re­fus­ing to make in­ter­net ac­cess af­ford­able to all.

Pop­u­lar ra­dio per­son­al­i­ties Tbo Touch (Thabo Molefe) and Gareth Cliff pi­o­neered the #Data­Must­Fall cam­paign and made pre­sen­ta­tions to par­lia­ment.

Noth­ing came of that and there is no sig­nal from ei­ther the gov­ern­ment or the pri­vate sec­tor that ex­pen­sive data prices might fall one day.

Un­like Rwan­dans, South Africans are frag­mented. We have a Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan but not every­one sup­ports its im­ple­men­ta­tion. For in­stance, we re­cently wit­nessed the de­struc­tion of pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture dur­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery protests and at sport­ing events.

The pri­vate sec­tor is also not fully sup­port­ing the NDP. Cases of col­lu­sion (in fact cor­rup­tion) in con­struc­tion and food ser­vices abound, caus­ing smaller and emerg­ing play­ers to con­tinue to be excluded in the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try.

The gov­ern­ment needs to cre­ate a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for in­vest­ment to flour­ish at pol­icy, leg­isla­tive and im­ple­men­ta­tion lev­els. Cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence must be erad­i­cated across the state.

Per­haps the New Dawn and Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s

“Thuma Mina” pol­icy is a good start­ing point to rally all South Africans to­gether to make a con­tri­bu­tion.

The re­cently ap­pointed panel of spe­cial en­voys for in­vest­ment, to be co-or­di­nated by eco­nomic ad­viser Trudi Makhaya, in­spires some con­fi­dence in our eco­nomic fu­ture.

Per­haps we can re­gain the im­pe­tus in up­ward eco­nomic growth that we ex­pe­ri­enced in the early and mid-2000s. It is pos­si­ble that we can reach the lev­els of higher eco­nomic growth that Rwanda has demon­strated.

Just like Rwanda, we owe it to our fallen he­roes to make the fruits of our free­dom flour­ish, to be en­joyed by all South Africans.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.