By David Himbara
On July 22, 2018, Kenya’s leading newspaper — The Daily Nation — became President Paul Kagame’s praise-singer. No less than the newspaper’s Deputy News Editor, Julius Sigei, proclaimed Kagame a miracle worker. Titling his article ”Why it’s not a tall order for Rwanda under Kagame”, Deputy Editor Sigei described Kagame’s economic achievements as follows:
”Rwanda has, under Mr Kagame, leapt from a backwater country to a rapidly modernizing tourism and investment hub, putting to shame the larger African economies that have enjoyed relative peace and prosperity since independence.”
To test these claims, let us compare Rwanda and Kenya — the latter being an example of what Deputy Editor Sigei terms ”larger African economies that have enjoyed relative peace and prosperity since independence.”
TABLE 1: Comparative Economic Performance of Rwanda & Kenya
From TABLE 1, we see the following comparisons based on the 2016/2017 data from the World Bank and the UN World Tourism Organisation:
- Kenya’s GDP stands at $75 Billion. Rwanda’s is $9 Billion. In other words, Kenya’s economy is eight times larger than Rwanda’s.
- With a per capita income of $1,507, Kenya has already turned into a middle-income economy, while Rwanda remains low-income with a capita of $748. Under Vision 2020, Kagame aimed to transform Rwanda into a middle income by 2020. This has failed to materialize— now, the regime says Rwanda will become a middle-income economy by 2034.
- Rwanda is heavily dependent on foreign aid — its aid per capita is $96 versus Kenya’s aid per capita of $45. Rwanda’s aid per capita more than doubles the Sub-Saharan Africa’s average of $43,
- In Kenya, 59% of the population has access to electricity while in Rwanda the access rate is 29%.
- Regarding the rural population, the percentage of Kenyans who have electricity is 39% versus 18% in Rwanda.
- The market capitalization of the Nairobi Securities Exchange is $25 Billion versus Rwanda’s at $3.4 Billion. Moreover, of the seven companies that trade on Rwanda’s Stock Exchange, five are from Kenya. The Kenyan companies are Equity Group, I&M Bank, KCB Group, Nation Media Group, and Uchumi Supermarkets.
- Foreign direct investment to Kenya ($692 Million) more than doubles Rwanda’s share ($296 Million).
- Kenya’s income from tourism which stood at $1.6 Billion in 2016 is more than three times larger than Rwanda’s at $470 Million.
An unsolicited advice to the Daily Nation and Deputy Editor Sigei
Dear Daily Nation and your Deputy Editor Sigei, here is my unsolicited advice. You should let analysts with deeper knowledge of Rwanda cover it for you. Your colleagues at The East African, and Rwanda Today, in particular, are far better informed. What you have written is a disgrace. Praise-singing belongs to tabloids. The idea that Kagame’s Rwanda leaped ”from a backwater country to a rapidly modernizing tourism and investment hub” is embarrassing. So is the notion that Rwanda ”is putting to shame the larger African economies that have enjoyed relative peace and prosperity since independence.” If you take a closer look at your own country, you will see how ridiculous your statements are. You have fallen a willing victim of Kagame’s propaganda.