Rwanda is a special country in Africa. After experiencing one of the most brutal genocides in contemporary history, it is now considered one of the most economically and politically stable countries in Africa. It is important to state from the outset that Rwanda is not politically a democracy as we understand it in the West. It is politically autocratic. Indeed, Paul Kagame has been reigning over the country since 2000. While Rwanda is politically autocratic, it is economically liberal. Indeed, Rwanda is considered among the most prosperous countries in Africa to do business. Since 2000, Rwanda’s economy has grown at an average of 6% year over year. With a 76.5 rating, it is ranked 38th on the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings. Rwanda is also ranked number two in the world for ease of property registration, second only to New Zealand. How a small country like Rwanda which experienced one of the worst genocides in human history managed to become one of the most prosperous economies in Africa?
The Rwandan Civil War only lasted 100 days but it was undeniably one of the worst and most brutal genocides in modern history. This civil war opposed two ethnic groups; the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Tutsis were the minority ethnic group in the country but they wielded power over the country’s economic, political, and financial resources. They were landowners and were considered the upper-class while the Hutus were considered the working-class since they were the ones who would work the land. The spark difference in social classes and the system of discrimination enforced against the Hutus engineered resentment against the Tutsi, and in April 1994, the civil war broke out: more than 600,000 people died in 100 days.
After the war, the country tried to recover politically and economically. The Tutsi-led government began a major program to improve the country’s economy and reduce its dependence on subsistence farming. But the recovery was at first, slow. In 1996, however, the Rwandan government posted a 13% GDP growth rate through improved collection of tax revenues, accelerated privatization of state enterprises to stop the drain of government resources, and continued improvement in export crops and food production.
In 2000, Paul Kagame was elected president, and he has been president since then. Under his leadership, Rwanda has undergone rapid industrialization. Kagame had a progressive vision for Rwanda (at least economically). What policies did President Kagame implement to industrialize his country? The Rwandan president implemented a series of market-oriented policies that heavily focused on privatization but also implemented a set of national economic policies in certain economic sectors such as agriculture. He created Tri-Star Investments, a set of holding companies owned by the Rwandan government to supervise agricultural production. Under Kagame’s leadership, the economy grew rapidly. Between 2001 and 2013, economic growth was estimated at 8% per year. Partly as a result, the percentage of people living below the poverty line fell from 57% in 2005 to 45% in 2010. Income per capita grew from $266 in 2000 to $970 in 2020, which is a 264% increase in income.
Is Rwanda an example to follow? It is undeniably clear that economically, Rwanda has made massive progress that significantly improved the living standard of Rwandans. Rwanda is, indeed, one of the most secure places in terms of protection of private property, and private property is an indispensable component of economic development. Politically, Rwanda is definitely not ready to liberalize its political system. Paul Kagame believes that implementing political liberalism will weaken the national cohesion he’s been trying to preserve, in order to leave the scars of the war in the past.