Kagame’s Prosperity-Creation Plan Not Centered On People But Buildings

By David Himbara

Kigali Convention Center (top photo) and RwandAir — Kagame’s mega projects.

General Paul Kagame’s socioeconomic development achievements are generally associated with Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and mega projects in the city. Kagame mega projects include the US$500 million Kigali Convention Center, the loss-making US$1.2 billion RwandAir, and the still uncompleted US$800 million Bugesera International Airport. The convention centre, the airline, and the airport are pillars of Kagame’s grand strategy of turning Kigali into East Africa’s tourism hub upon which Kagame hopes Rwanda will become rich. Other Kagame mega projects include two stalled railway lines — one linking Kigali to Tanzania’s seaport of Dar Es Salaam, the other connecting Kigali to Mombasa in Kenya via Kampala, Uganda. Each of these rail projects would cost over US$2 billion to build.

Kagame forgot human capital — people — in his prosperity-creation dream. This omission becomes evident in the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HDI) which examines how countries invest in people to ensure future productive workforces. HDI provides comparative data on 157 countries in the world, including Rwanda, and ranks them based on five indicators as follows:

  1. The probability of survival to age five;
  2. A child’s expected years of schooling;
  3. Harmonized test scores as a measure of quality of learning;
  4. Adult survival rate (fraction of 15-year olds that will survive to age 60), and;
  5. The proportion of children who are not stunted.

Overall, therefore, the purpose of HCI is to illustrate how countries are investing in their people through provision of education and health over generations. Investing in people cannot be overemphasized. It is the central means of creating a productive workforce for robust participation in global markets — and the ultimate mechanism for creating prosperity.

Rwanda’s human capital index ranking of 142 out of 157 is deplorable

Rwanda’s Human Capital Index ranking is 142 out 157 countries. Put in another way, there are 15 countries in the world that have a worse HCI ranking than Rwanda. The East African Community (EAC) countries are ranked in HCI as follows:

  1. Kenya — 94
  2. Tanzania — 128
  3. Uganda — 137
  4. Burundi — 138
  5. Rwanda — 142
  6. South Sudan — 157

Among EAC countries, only South Sudan has a worse HCI ranking than Rwanda. Kagame’s Rwanda performs very poorly especially in two indicators, namely, the quality of education and child stunting. As the World Bank explains, in Rwanda,

”37 out of 100 children are stunted, and so at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last a lifetime.”

A 2018 Rwanda government assessment of the country’s health sector revealed gloomy statistics. With a population of 12 million, Rwanda has 1,350 physicians, of whom 567 are specialists and 783 are general practitioners. There are 9,551 nurses in Rwanda, 1,207 midwives, 1,990 laboratory technicians, 292 anesthetists’ technicians, 87 pharmacists, and 228 dentists. There is in total 21,826 hospital beds and 247 ambulances in Rwanda. Health professionals/infrastructure and population ratios are as follows:

  1. One doctor per 8,919 people;
  2. One nurse per 1,261 people;
  3. One pharmacist per 138,398;
  4. One ambulance per 48,747 people;
  5. One health center per 23,847 people;

Beyond HDI, we know that Kagame prefers to source human capital from outside Rwanda. Indeed, Kagame does not have confidence in the people of Rwanda to lead strategic institutions , including those that create human capital. Take a look at these examples:

  1. Chancellor, University of Rwanda, Patricia Campbell, USA;
  2. Vice-Chancellor, University of Rwanda, Phillip Cotton, UK;
  3. Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research, University of Rwanda, Nelson Ijumba, Tanzania;
  4. Chairman, Bank of Kigali, Marc Holtzman, USA;
  5. Chairman, Rwanda Development Board, Itzhak Fisher, Israel;
  6. Chief Investment Office, Rwanda Development Board, Guy Baron, USA;
  7. Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Energy Group, Ron Weiss, Israel;
  8. Chairman, Rwanda Convention Bureau, Fred Swaniker, Ghana.

General Kagame, prosperity-creation is not merely about building impressive structures and a national airline. Development is about people — human capital. Over to you Chief.