By David Himbara
Writing in the The Wall Street Journal in 2013, Rwanda head of state General Paul Kagame boasted that he was happy Rwanda was being compared to the “Asian Tigers” of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea. These countries spectacularly prospered in a single generation. As Kagame put it, “being described as an “African tiger” is a welcome recognition of how far Rwanda has come.” The only thing that Kagame objected to was Rwanda being called an economic tiger — Kagame would rather that Rwanda is referred to an economic lion. And how did Kagame perform this miracle?Kagame explained that he was transforming Rwanda by running a marathon as a sprint:
”There is a view that development is a marathon, not a sprint. We do not agree. Development is a marathon that must be run at a sprint. In our pursuit of progress, we have of course looked to East Asia’s so-called “tiger” economies for inspiration. But Africa’s experience is unique, and we must now define our own destiny.”
Kagame’s fantasy of transforming Rwanda into an economic lion becomes evident in the World Bank’s two latest methods of measuring poverty. Besides the old international poverty line of defining the poor as the population living under less than US$1.90 a day, the Bank now uses US$3.20 a day and US$5.50 a day as alternatives to measuring poverty. When the US$3.20 a day and US$5.50 a day are applied to Kagame’s Rwanda, his economic lion turns into a mouse.
Rwanda’s poverty rates at US$3.20 a day
Here are Rwanda’s poverty rates from a comparative perspective when measured by the international poverty line of living on less than US$3.20 a day.
- Sub-Saharan Africa average — 31.7% are poor
- Ethiopia — 22.7% are poor
- Kenya — 28.4% are poor
- Uganda — 31.2% are poor
- Tanzania — 36.3% are poor
- Rwanda — 40.7% are poor
Rwanda’s poverty rates at US$5.50 a day
Here are Rwanda’s poverty rates from a comparative perspective when measured by the international poverty line of living on less than US$5.50 a day.
- Sub-Saharan Africa average — 84.5% are poor
- Ethiopia — 84.7% are poor
- Kenya — 86.5% are poor
- Uganda — 87.7% are poor
- Rwanda — 92.2% are poor
- Tanzania — 93.1% are poor
Kagame’s economic lion is nowhere to be found. And his marathon run at a sprint looks more like a tortoise’s journey.