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