Kagame’s Conference Tourism And Addiction To Jetting Around The World Have Run Into Coronavirus

By David Himbara

Gambling is very dangerous. Case in point is General Paul Kagame, whose compulsive behaviour is no doubt a sign of gambling addiction, sometimes known as an impulse-control disorder. And Kagame gambles with the lives of 12 million Rwanda. Back in the 2000s, Kagame gambled with the crazy idea of transforming a peasant economy into a knowledge economy in 20 years. He took fibre optic cables to every district and to the top of Mt Kalisimbi to connect Rwandans to the internet. That gamble died a sudden death. Kagame failed to understand that the internet is a highway for taking goods to global markets, of which his districts had none. This, after gambling US$120 million on the so-called ICT infrastructure.

Kagame then took an even more spectacular gamble

He put up to US$2 billion of debts into building mega infrastructures for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism. That is how the Kigali Convention Center, RwandAir, Bugesera International Airport, and Kigali Basketball Arena were born. Meanwhile, ‪the real problem with Kagame’s pile of Eurobond debt for building his pet projects is the repayment terms — not just the amount of debt. Repayment for the 2013 US$400 million Eurobond is soon due. Meanwhile, central government gross debt as percentage of GDP is 50.6%.

Enter Coronavirus

World-wide major conferences are getting cancelled at historic rates as coronavirus restricts travel, leaving organizers with no choice but to call off international gatherings. Global cancellations result in massive lost revenue for local economies. Rwanda is no exception. Few, if any, will travel to Kigali.

So what is the next gamble for Kagame? He has time on his hands as he can no longer roam the world

Kagame has plenty of time to figure out his next gamble. He has nowhere to travel — which is pure torture for a man who lives in the air attending conferences in every corner of the world. The Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Kagame was about to attend next week in Nairobi, Kenya is cancelled. NEF just informed delegates that due to growing concern around coronavirus, its 2020 meeting in Nairobi is indefinitely postponed.