On September 9, the Doing Business Report
of the World Bank Group ranked Rwanda as
the world's top reformer in creating
a business friendly environment.
The report also showed that within one year,
Rwanda jumped from number 139 to
number 67 out of 186 countries
sampled – almost jumping 60 positions.
No country in the world has ever managed
such a feat.
Uganda also made a jump but
in reverse – from number 111 to 112.
The key areas of reform considered by
the report include starting a business,
employing workers, getting credit (legal rights),
protecting investors, registering property,
closing a business and trading across borders.
According to the report, Rwanda is the
5th highest ranking African country after
Mauritius (17th), South Africa (34th),
Botswana (45th) and Namibia (66th).
How has this poor and obscure country
beaten Africa's giants like Ghana, Kenya,
Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Egypt
and Morocco in being open for business?
The critics of Rwanda's current leadership
must be biting their nails.
On April 20, Time magazine nominated
President Paul Kagame among the 100
most influential people
in the world – alongside Barack Obama
and Gordon Brown.
Writing the commentary on the nomination
was Pastor Rick Warren, the most respected
evangelist in America – now
an advisor to Kagame.
On July 16, the World Technology
Network (WTN) had nominated Kagame
as the world's best policy leader in
advancing the use of new technologies.
Later, Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria
told CNN in an interview that
Rwanda is Africa's most successful
nation – when Barak Obama was
Zakaria who also hosts GPS program
on CNN is among the most intellectually
minded journalists in the world.
This September, I was at the University
of Oxford's Said School of Business
in an Africa leadership program.
The program brings together 20 Africans
in their mid-30s who have made
a mark in the corporate world to spend time
sharing ideas on leadership on the continent.
Throughout our discussions,
Kagame was being cited by everyone,
fellows and the visiting lecturers alike,
as the exemplar of good leadership.
When I attended the Australian business
leadership retreat in August 2008,
Rwanda was referred to by almost
every major speaker.
When I went to China for the World
Economic Forum meeting in September 2008,
the CEO on Intel gave me a ride from
my hotel to the conference hall.
I told him I was from Uganda
but he thought I said Rwanda.
"You have a great president in Rwanda,
" he told me, "He is mentioned at every
technology conference I attend.
Rwanda is too poor and small a country
to have such a profile especially in
the area of technology.
How have you done it?"
For a moment, I was tempted to associate
myself with success.
I decided to be honest.
I am from Uganda, I said, Rwanda is
our neighbor to the south-west.
"That country seems to be going nuts,
eh" he said, "And your president doesn't want
to leave power, huh?"
So what product has Rwanda given
to the world that everyone is buying into?
The answer was given to me by Joe Ritchie.
After making hundreds of millions of dollars
as a commodities and options trader in Chicago,
Ritchie has now settled in Rwanda
as advisor to Kagame and CEO
of Rwanda Development Board.
What would make a successful
multi-millionaire leave his exciting business
to come live and work in this impoverished nation?
"I have a fund," Ritchie once told me
as we sat down to a cup of coffee,
"It is just my own money that I invest
in companies on the basis of the character
of the CEO, that's the only thing I look at.
I don't look at what sector they're in,
I don't look at their sales projections,
I don't look at sales growth, I don't look at
anything except the character of the CEOs.
I picked about 60 or 70 companies out
of the hundreds and hundreds of them
and I bought their stock.
This fund outperforms the market regularly."
What has this got to do with
Rwanda's growing international reputation?
Ritchie met Kagame at a dinner organised
through a friend.
"And in five minutes, I knew there's not another
head of state on the planet like this guy,
he's just unique."
Ritchie has met many world leaders
from across all the continents.
"I think politicians are all crooks," he told me,
"But this man (Kagame) was clearly different.
He is honest, sincere, genuine and straightforward."
"I realized I can sell this man to the private sector,
" Ritchie went on, "I can't sell him in Washington.
Washington doesn't care if you do right
In fact they like guys that are on the take,
because then they can control them
I mean Washington is the biggest payer
of bribes on the planet.
Generally, they don't appreciate honest
straightforward heads of state, because they
can't control them.
But I know that in the private sector
there are people that would appreciate it.
"I took a list of the companies whose CEOs care
about character," he continued,
"We began introducing Kagame to CEOs
on my list of companies and others
we knew by reputation were very good guys.
Soon we had introduced him
to five people that knew President
George W. Bush personally.
If you know a CEO or someone that's been
very successful and he calls up
the White House and says,
you know what, there's a little country
called Rwanda, and a guy named
Paul Kagame that runs it, and you need
to focus on that guy because they are going
to go somewhere, you pay attention.
And if a second one calls, you say, wow.
Well, by the time three or four
or five call, it's all over."
We are told repeatedly that only
one mortal human being has the competences
to lead Uganda.
If Kagame had remained here,
he would still be one of the many people
we would be told has no capacity
to make a good president.
The lesson is that NRM and our country
are teaming with many talented people
who can make good presidents.
Do not stifle email@example.com
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Kigali - RWANDA
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