By David Himbara
Back in 2008/2009, President Paul Kagame put a large chunk of Rwandan pension funds into the then start-up company, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (MACK). I was there when this happened. But it is better someone else describes what happened. In their book, Rwanda Inc,: How a Devastated Became An Economic Model for the Developing World, Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond, explain what happened:
“Although Merrimack management was reluctant at first, fearing it was too risky for a developing country to put a portion of its pension funds into a pharmaceutical company, Kagame was undeterred…Rwanda eventually invested $16 million in Merrimack.”
Merrimack successfully made the transition from IPO into a publicly traded company in 2012. But here is the thing – the Rwandan investment appears in neither Rwanda Social Security Board’s (RSSB) reports, nor in Merrimack’s shareholders listing. RSSB consolidated portfolio report for June 2016 merely mentions “foreign equity” amounting to Rwf 17.2 billion, equivalent to USD29.9 million. Presumably, the investment in Merrimack is part of the USD29.9 million.
When we look at Merrimack’s Securities Registration Statement, filed on July 08/2011 with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the Rwandan investment does not appear:
So where is the Rwandan pension investment? Who might be the proxy or an agent acting on behalf of the Rwandan pension fund? Interestingly, appearing among Merrimack’s shareholders are two people who are also on Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council (PAC). These are Michael Porter and Clet Niyikiza. Might they be proxies? Or might it be one of the several listed investment funds acting on Rwanda’s behalf?
It is now over half a decade since a portion of Rwanda pension fund was invested in Merrimack. The Kagame government should tell the country how this investment has performed – and indeed under whose name it is invested. The U.S. regulatory system in very clear on this; it robustly enforces corporate governance, disclosure, and transparency. Rwandans, therefore, have an alternative channel to learn where their money is – by directly requesting an explanation from Merrimack itself – if the government of Rwanda fails to explain.