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Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Kagame Mirage

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has written an interesting piece in the Financial Times that calls for an end to African dependency on aid (an echo of Dead Aid) and a call for greater entrepreneurship :

Africa has to find its own road to prosperity, Paul Kagame, Financial Times, Commentary : 

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 materialise. 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 neighbour, 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 specialised 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 per cent 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 per cent 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.
Much of the article basically repeats what everyone knows - Africa will only develop when Africans have full ownership of their future, and more importantly, entrepreneurship is crucial for long term economic independence. Unfortunately for Kagame he forgets (as a paper I'll blog tomorrow shows) that entrepreneurship follows adherence to the rule of law. Too bad then that Mr Kagame has been described by The Economist as "allowing less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe", and "[a]nyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly". Africa has to find its own own road to prosperity alright, but not if we keep having leaders who bully their neighbours and show very little regard for political and human rights of others. More on Rwanda's human rights record via Wikipedia.

Of course the message is more important than the messenger, but when people start looking up to Mr Kagame as the voice of African reason, I get worried. Paul Kagame is trying to use the anti-aid brigade to reposition himself as a moderate whilst he withholds important political and human rights from his people. I find that unacceptable.  For new visitors to the blog, my position on aid is articulated here


  1. I recently met Dambisa Moyo at the African Business Network and she assured us all that Rwanda and Kagame were very serious about ending AID dependency.

    I hope other countries on the continent can copy what Rwanda is doing.

  2. I don't agree with Kagame and Dambisa---indeed its a mirrage....

  3. The problem I have with Paul Kagama, is that he started off the Rwandan genocide by shooting down the plain carrying the (Hutu) presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, and that he is in the pockets of the US and UK.

    And that he and Museveri are fomenting the unrest and exploitation in the Eastern DRC.

    I am not looking forward to the replacement of the present western and political elites with local elites.

    So unless getting off aid is accompanied by decentralization of government and other reforms in governance, I won't take Paul Kagame's word for anything.

    I am very suspicious of the fact that Dambisa Moyo is supported by all these rightwing thinktanks, and I don't think that can be separated from her message, however sort of reasonable it looks at first glance.

    I am all for ending aid, but I doubt that Dambisa Moyo and the Cato Institute would be for heavy taxation the mines. My suspicion is that they don't just want to end aid, but government services as well - as true neoliberals. I would tax the heck out of the mines and fund local government with that, to provide the basic servcices people deserve and need.

    1. My brother, stating that any "shooting of a plane" can start a genocide is, by principle, explaining, then justifying the genocide itself. Without mentioning that your version of Rwandan tragic story is dead wrong. Shoot so many planes as much as you can, but don't come to kill my family. It does not add up. Get back to your senses and read what you wrote before posting it. It's so absurd!

  4. MrK,

    My patience paid off!

    I was getting worried you had missed the obvious link between the anti-aid brigade and neoliberal.

    This issue is about ideology not good economics.

    No evidence shows aid causes poverty.

    It is the neoliberal idea that Governments should leave things alone. Trade for them is unregulated FDI. Read Dead Aid and you won't find anything about regulating FDI or what makes FDI.

    The neoliberals think multi nationals are the answer to Africa's problem.

  5. It is incorrect that all right-wing politicians are uncritical about Paul Kagame. Arend-Jan Boekestijn is the member of Dutch parliament for the conservative party VVD in the Netherlands who made it impossible for the dutch development minister Koenders to continue budgetsupport to Rwanda.

  6. Cho,

    I was getting worried you had missed the obvious link between the anti-aid brigade and neoliberal.It would be interesting if anyone questioned her on her opinion on government services (public education, national healthcare, public utilities), their extent, and how they should be financed.

    If she states that taxes on the private sector should be minimal - her game is up.

    Because the private sector is not going to fund services that may never show a profit, or projects that will become profitable 20 years from now. They are all about short-termism.

  7. Mr. Kagame is saying what most of our african leaders should be doing- they should be busy promoting private sector, enhancing skills labour... But they are busy doing there own business... We need a change- We go Obama! Why should we depend on taxes of others citizens?
    Its high time we wake-up.


  8. Fred,

    It is time to start taxing the mines and restructure the government away from the ministries and towards local government and services.

  9. As neoliberal free market theory is causing the collapse of the global economy yet again (it did the same in the 1920s and 1980s), there will be more books out on the common sense of regulation of financial markets and economies.

    Interesting new book by Senator Byron Dorgan:

    Reckless!: How Debt, Deregulation, and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America (And How We Can Fix It!) (Hardcover)
    by Byron L. Dorgan (Author)

    Product Description

    As one of only eight senators to vote against bank deregulation, Byron Dorgan warned America that a free-market system left unchecked is like a driving a car at ninety miles per hour without brakes.

    With the recent financial collapse having proven him right, Dorgan exposes this modern-day carnival of greed and calls out the corporate executives who reap millions and even billions as a “reward” for self-interest and mismanagement. More poignantly, he argues that public officials we elect to represent the best interests of the people have sold us out, as government has become a partner to Big Oil, Big Media, and Big Pharma.

  10. Kagame is good for Rwanda. For all his critics, he has shown results. Many compare Kagame to a younger (less corrupt) museveni. A more flattering comparison would be to Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew.

    Kagame is a jewel in the muck we call Africa. Other notables are Ian Khama & the Mauritian PMs.

    I wish we had a Kagame in Kenya rather than the corrupt, inept current lame-duck.

  11. " Kagame is good for Rwanda. "

    If you don't count the genocide... His forces shot down the plane that killed both presidents of Rwanda and Burundi.

    There is that... And he is a School of the Americas alumni - in practice, he is in the pay of a foreign power.

    And he is partly behind the fighting/genocide in the Eastern DRC.

    I guess someone could argue that Hitler was good for Germany - upto the invasion of Russia.

  12. Someone has mentioned that the message is important than the messanger. You're right in a sense that what Africa needs are people with clear thinking who can think and articulate their thought thoughtfully and maturely without hidden agenda. I was one of the first Africans living in U.S. who first read Dambisa's book. I've promised myself that before I read a book, thus I've to google the author's background. Nevertheless, I read Dambisa's book without googling her background, which I had regretted at the end.

    Let me pointed out without heartfeeling that Dambisa's book has brought back the question of whether foreign aid money is helping Africa to develop or is it hurting Africa. These are questions educated Africans should reckon with. To give Dambisa the benefit of the doubt, it is true that foreign aid money is not good enough to develop Africa. This is true because there is no single nation-state that I know of had developed out of foreign aid money.

    However, Dambisa's book contained many factual errors of which I don't want to talk about them because some reviewers have pointed them out. Instead, I would comment on her interviews she gave to CNN and other cable news networks where she appears disconnectet and detached from Africa she claims to present in the rejection of foreign aid money. Additionally, in many interviews I had watched, Dambisa dwells over one thing, and that's, she comments that "We know that foreign aid doesn't help." This is a very confusing statement. Indeed, as an Oxbridge graduate, she should know her audiences are not only educated "economists" to interpret what she means by that statement. This inconsistency illustrates Dambisa's book was solely written for money making purpose not to expose how bad foreign aid money had undeveloped Africa.

    Another fallacy of thinking she demostrates is the fact she talks about the economic success of Rwanda without pointing out that Rwanda simply develops because of foreign aid money. On June 1, 2009 at the University of Toronto Munk Debate, Dambisa points out that 70% of Rwnda Budget is foreign aid money. If that is the case, why arguing against foreign aid money, instead, arguing that those countries that do not implement the foeign aid money for the intended purposes should not be awarded foreign aid money. Thus, foreign aid money devlops Rwanda, perhaps, becuse the Kagame administration had spended the money wisely for the intended purpses.

    Furthermore, Dambisa fails to mention the fact that 80% of the foreign aid money to the Third World countries is spended in Washington, London, or Paris before it reaches those countries. This is factually true, and if one doubts, please read more about this topic from developmental economists such as Jeffery Sach, William Easterly, George Ayitteh, and Paul Coller among others.

    Finally, Dambisa should make her book tour in Africa instead of doing all the talkings in the Western media. In other words, if one wants to change African undevelopment; therefore, it is important and advisable for one to do it in Africa than doing it in the West.

  13. Not to state the obvious, but Paul Kagame was behind the genocide in Rwanda (his forces shot down the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi), and he was in full support of his mini-me, Laurent Nkunda, in the Eastern DRC and his coltan wars.

    UN Accuses Rwanda’s Paul Kagame of Supporting Warlord Laurent Nkunda

    On Thursday, US rights group Human Rights Watch released a report on how Laurent Nkunda’s rebels summarily executed an estimated 150 innocent civilians on November 4-5, 2008 in the town of Kiwanja.

    More than 5,400,000 people have died in Congo since 1998, most of them in eastern Congo, because of wars launched by foreign-backed rebels. 45,000 are estimated to be dying each month. More than 1,000,000 innocent civilians are displaced today in eastern Congo because of Laurent Nkunda’s resources war.

    The UN report also says that the rebels use the mines under their control to finance their rebellion. It cited warlord Laurent Nkunda’s control of the Bibatama mine of Columbite-Tantalite (Coltan), a mineral used worldwide to produce electronics components in cell phones, LCD screens, TVs and computers.

    Many experts on the Great Lakes region have long discarded Laurent Nkunda’s claim of protecting the Tutsi minority in Congo as the real reason for his rebellion. They have accused the warlord of fighting a resources war instead, and using the presence of Rwandan Hutu militiamen (FLDR) in eastern Congo as a pretext.

    Paul Kagame was trained in the US, and is a US stooge, doing the bidding of Anglo-US corporations.

  14. You go girl! Go Dambisa ....go!

    Will you marry me??



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