Kagame’s Rwanda Is No Model For Zimbabwe  – Or Any Other Country

President Emmerson Mnangagwa meeting Kagame in Kigali, Rwanda, on the sidelines of the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on 21 March 2018.

Open Letter To President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Republic of Zimbabwe


Dear Mr. President, I write this letter to offer unsolicited advice.

Let me, however, first congratulate the people of Zimbabwe. During the events that, in November 2017, ended the thirty-seven-year presidency of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabweans conducted themselves with extraordinary resolve to avoid loss of lives. As we all know, wherever the military plays a direct role in political change, violence ensues— no so in Zimbabwe. Africa and the world are very proud of what Zimbabweans accomplished in very difficult circumstances.

Permit me, Mr. President, to now address the purpose of my letter, namely, unsolicited advice — one economic, the other, political.

Visitors to the Rwandan capital city, Kigali, are impressed by its cleanliness and new high rises such as Africa’s most expensive building – Kigali Convention Center – which cost a whopping $300 million.


It is apparent that you have been charmed by the Rwandan head of state, Paul Kagame, and his purported economic success. You seem impressed by what appears to be Rwanda’s success in transforming itself into a modern economy. You are especially keen to learn from Rwanda the secret of its success in attracting foreign direct investment. This is demonstrated by the fact that you recently invited Rwandan officials to show your government how to promote foreign investment.

President Mnangagwa, Rwanda’s economic success under Kagame is a big lie.

Rural Rwandans sustain themselves on small plots of land such as this.


Rwanda remains largely a rural economy based on subsistence agriculture. The country’s urbanization rate stands at 17 percent. In other words, 83 percent of Rwandans still eke a living from small plots of land upcountry. A simple comparison between Rwanda and Zimbabwe using data from the World Bank gives us the following broad picture:

  1. Rwanda’s economy remains tiny with a GDP of $8.3 billion. In fact, Rwanda’s economy is half of Zimbabwe’s whose GDP stands at $16.6 billion.
  2. Rwanda remains a poor low-income country with per capita income of $702 — versus Zimbabwe which is categorized as middle-income with a per capita income of $1,029.

The private sector barely exists in Rwanda. This is an economy that heavily dependent on foreign aid. The largest multilateral donor to Rwanda, namely, the World Bank, describes the country as follows:

“Poor infrastructure and a lack of access to electricity are some of the major constraints to private investment. Investment relies heavily on foreign aid, with stable inflows critical to keep the current investment rate high at about 25% of GDP. Reducing the country’s dependency on foreign aid through domestic resource mobilization and promoting domestic savings is viewed as critical.”

Rwanda has only 209 megawatts of electricity in a population of 12 million.


Mr. President, I should point that the Kagame government used to claim that it would transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. This is already a total failure after twenty years of pursuing this objective. The milestone of lifting Rwanda from low to middle-income was recently shifted to 2035. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sums up the situation as follows:

“After a slowdown in 2016 and early 2017, growth has started to recover, led by agriculture and services…Despite these achievements, the Rwandan economy remains vulnerable to external shocks and fiscal risks…Building on its notable progress toward development objectives, the [Rwandan] authorities are crafting a revised medium-term development strategy with the goal of achieving middle-income status by 2035.”

Mr. President, Rwanda’s ”successful” mobilization of foreign investment is an even bigger lie.

Part of Rwanda Development Board’s report using gimmicks to exaggerate foreign investment. The term used here is ”investment registered” which may or may not materialize.


No doubt Kagame and his officials boastfully informed you that Rwanda attracts billions of dollars in foreign investments annually. Let me quote directly from Rwanda Development Board what they claim in this regard:

”The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in 2017 registered investments in Rwanda worth $USD 1.675 billion. This is an increase of $USD 515 million when compared to the investments registered by RDB in 2016. USD $1.160 billion worth of investments were registered in 2016.”

Mr. President, please do not be deceived by this. Notice that the Rwandans talk about ”registered” investment. Registering an investment is just that — a mere registration. Registered investment, in other words, is not an active capital already deployed thus creating value for its owners and employment opportunities. The term ”registered investment” is a Kagame gimmick designed to impress. Here are the actual figures for foreign direct investment into Rwanda in the past six years, according to the World Bank:

  • 2016 — $254 million.
  • 2015 — $223 million.
  • 2014 — $314 million.
  • 2013 — $267 million.
  • 2012 — $254 million.
  • 2011 — $119 million.

President Mnangagwa, in fact, Zimbabwe attracted more foreign investment than Rwanda is the same period. The World Bank provides the following figures for Zimbabwe:

  • 2016 — $343 million.
  • 2015 — $399 million.
  • 2014 — $472 million.
  • 2013 — $373 million.
  • 2012 — $349 million.
  • 2011 — $344 million.

From these figures, we see that Zimbabwe — a country that was experiencing an economic decline — attracted more foreign investments than Rwanda, which was supposedly undergoing an economic miracle.

Mr. President, on my unsolicited advice on politics, I say much less.

Kagame and Rwanda’s Minister of Defense General James Kabarebe, who was installed as DR Congo’s army chief of staff when Rwanda was the occupying power in 1996–1998.


As the part of Zimbabwe’s top leadership, you witnessed what Kagame did in DR Congo in 1996–2003. Kagame overthrew one head of state, occupied the country, and was about to remove the head of state he had installed. Were it not for Zimbabwe and its allies that stopped him, Kagame was about to reinvade and reoccupy that country. The result of Kagame’s adventures in Congo led to the estimated death of over five million Congolese and Rwandans. Meanwhile, at home, Kagame is an atrocious human rights abuser. In Kagame’s Rwanda, leaders of the opposition and the media are either in prison, exile or mysteriously die.

In conclusion, President Mnangagwa, I humbly put it to you that Kagame is neither an economic nor a political role model for Zimbabwe or any other country for that matter.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi visiting with Mnangagwa.


You have in your own neighborhood leaders that are proven democrats and transformative. Most notably, you have Botswana’s head of state, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa. It appears that there is plenty of economic and political wisdom in your own region. For God’s sake, forget Kagame and his brand of economics and politics.

Most Sincerely,

David Himbara