Christian Murera asks: Why not Prioritise Basic Infrastructure in Rwanda?

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As the above Rwandan government statistics show, there are only 113,742 water subscribers in Rwanda. Some 8,296 are in Northern Province; 11,966 in Western; 13,618 in Eastern; and 63,121 in Capital City of Kigali. This in a country of 12 million people.

Basic infrastructure under-development in Rwanda not only applies to water and sanitation but also to energy; transport; and telecommunications, as we have illustrated in previous articles.

WHAT DOES THIS TELL US?

This is the issue that is bothering Christian Murera. Paying greater attention to water and energy priorities, says Christian, would not only stimulate industries, but would create demand for a skilled workforce for engineers, welders, electricians, plumbers, and other technicians.

Why is this not the case in Rwanda? How can a country lay fibre optic cables when it does not even have piped water to most households?

TOTALITARIAN STATES & PRESTIGE PROJECTS

To understand this contradiction, one must appreciate the nature of totalitarian states. Every totalitarian state seeks to build a “new society.” And “new” society for autocrat rulers is demonstrated by highly visible and prestigious projects.

Let us use the case of Equatorial Guinea as an example. The ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Africa’s longest serving ruler since 1979, is building a new capital, Oyala, in the middle of the tropical rainforest. Connecting the new capital to the cost is a four-lane highway. A gigantic space-ship like library made of glass and steel is being built in the futuristic city. The library is part of the new “University of Central Africa.” A luxury hotel is also being built in the jungle capital at the cost of US$420 million. The hotel will serve as a convention centre.

Meanwhile, most of the country’s 700,000 people live in poverty.

RWANDA’S PRESTIGE PROJECTS

Rwanda has modernised Kigali – complete with the new Kigali Convention Centre – for which, among other projects, the country went into debt of US$400million. The new Bugesera airport appears stalled – no money no investor.

But go outside Kigali, it is a different world. District paved roads for example amount to 58km versus 12,248 unpaved district roads most of which are the impassable in rainy seasons.

BACK TO CHRISTIAN MURERA: WHERE TO RWANDA?

Unlike Obiang Nguema that is awash with oil dollars to build prestigious projects, Paul Kagame has no cash. Kagame is attempting to build his prestigious projects in a resource-poor country dependent on foreign donations that account for nearly 50% of his budget. So what should Kagame do, if he listened?

Murera, Himbara and many others would tell the Rwandan ruler to forget his prestigious projects and focus on basic infrastructure. As Christian Murera suggests, good quality infrastructure is a fundamental ingredient for Rwanda’s development. Like all countries that succeed in transforming themselves, Rwanda needs efficient transport, sanitation, energy and communications systems if it is to prosper and provide a decent standard of living for all Rwandans – not just a tiny elite. Unfortunately, at the moment Rwanda’s basic infrastructure ranges between shambles to nonexistent. This hampers broad-based and inclusive growth and Rwanda’s ability to robustly trade in East Africa, Africa and the global economy at large.

David Himbara

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