Can Rwanda be the Singapore of Africa?

Africa, till this date, is often seen as one of the poorest continent around the world. It holds the majority of the world’s least developed countries. Many countries suffer economically due to a corrupted government! But, Africa is BIG! There are 54 countries. And not, all of it fall under the generalization. Rwanda is the perfect example of this!

One of the easiest way to compare countries is through their indicators, and Rwanda’s are impressive. It is seen that out of every 100,000 people, Rwanda has an average of 2.5 murders per year only. As a point of comparison, that’s lower than India’s 3.2 and USA’s 5.4. It’s even more impressive when we look at the kind of the neighborhood Rwanda lives in. Uganda has 11.5, Tanzania has 7, Burundi has 6 and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) has 13.6 murders per 100,000. In addition, Rwanda is ranked as 48th least corrupt country. This might not be that perfect but it is 2nd in Africa after Botswana.

Rwanda has a life expectancy of 67. This is 4th best in Africa and is slightly below world average. What’s truly unbelievable is that 25 years ago, an average Rwandan life expectancy was just 28 years.

25 years ago, Rwanda was in amidst one of the horrific genocides in history. In just 120 days, 1,000,000 Rwandans were murdered in an ethnic clash. With time, peace prevailed and the country’s economy stated to grow. It is now the 15th fastest growing economy in the World. The Government has set out to fulfill one prime objective- becoming the Singapore of Africa.

History and description of the genocide by BBC

It’s very easy to forget that South-East Asia was not the highly developed or economically powerful, 100 years ago. Many theorists consider 1800’s as the European century, the 1900’s as the American century and the 2000’s as the Asia’s century. It is thought that we are currently in the century where Asia will prevail. One of the countries driving that is Singapore. Singapore sits in top of all the indicators around the globe. It’s the 8th safest, 3rd richest,3rd least corrupt and 3rd longest living country in the world. It went from as definitively 3rd world country to a definitively 1st world country within a lifetime!

Singapore primarily focuses on being the hub for major companies in Asia. 15 of world’s largest companies have operations here! But, Singapore ranks low on the Democracy Index. Being 66th, it has been recognized as a country with flawed democracy. This includes ban of chewing gums for cleanliness purpose to big things like lack of freedom of speech, assembly and press. But, all of this is subsided by the economic growth and prosperity.

Rwanda has been taking notes! Paul Kagame, the current president, has declared its mission to be the “Singapore” of Africa. And to be honest, Rwanda is on its way. Arguing that Rwanda is authoritarian is easy because in the same scale Rwanda ranks 128th. Kagame has been elected thrice and is clearly well liked among the people. He has been described as the military genius and his rise through the military power is impressive. But, he himself is still oppressive. Just like Singapore, there are severe limitations to the freedom of speech, press and assembly.

There are 3 reasons for Singapore’s success which Rwanda is also trying to follow. These are: –

1. Political stability across the country.

The World Bank rates countries in terms of the political stability and absence of violence and terrorism. In this Singapore lies in the 99th percentile, better than almost most of the countries. This is why a CEO might choose Singapore as the Asian hub of a company over others. Rwanda, although sits on the 48th percentile in the same measurement, performs much better than most of the African nations. But, with so few years under the current government, it is hard to comment on the political stability of the country.

2. Ease of doing business.

This is perhaps the most important reason for the success of Singapore. But, Rwanda excels a lot on this! In the Ease of doing business index Singapore ranks 2nd, just after New Zealand. Rwanda on the other hand ranks 29th. This is really impressive when compared to the rest of the continent! It is by far the highest ranked among the African nations. To achieve this, the government has put forward a lot of economic legislations.

3. Geographic position.

One of the largest companies of Singapore, the Singapore Airlines is considered as one of the best airlines around the world. Thanks to the airline, Singapore is connected to major business hubs around the world! It’s safe to say that other business hubs like Dubai and Doha would not be influential as they are today without their airlines. Rwanda has noticed this. The government owned Rwand Air has significantly grown from being a regional airline to one of the major players in Africa operating brand new aircrafts.

Overall, Rwanda is on the hunt for the international investment and so far it has paid off! Within 12 years the foreign investment rose by almost 3000%. The capital Kigali has been regarded as the cleanest city as Rwanda has banned plastic bags. Also, on the last Saturday of the month, able bodied people voluntarily take part in cleaning the city. Clearly, a lot is going on with Rwanda. It’s safe, clean and business friendly. What else could a country want?

Well there are serious questions around the world on Rwanda’s growth! The way Rwanda has achieved its current stability and growth have many condemning it. You see, it is still one of the poorest countries in the world with the average annual income of $750 only. Many question whether the country should spend on the airlines, infrastructure or capital when most of its population is poor.

At the end, all that matters are the opinion of the Rwandans. If Rwanda is truly working for the Rwandans, then Rwanda is prospering! There are many doubting the development. But, if Rwanda is politically stable, if businesses pay attention and if the investments pay off then surely Rwanda would be well on its way to be the Singapore of Africa!

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6 thoughts on “Can Rwanda be the Singapore of Africa?

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