Rwanda in 2013: Tough News From IMF/World Bank

Dear Rwandan compatriots, hot off the press is the Joint Staff Advisory Note (JSAN) on Rwanda by the IMF and the International Development Association (World Bank Group).

For a country without robust academia, media, opposition parties, think tanks, active civil society, JSAN is pretty much one of the very few sources of hard analysis of what has been termed “North Korea of the thousand hills.”

It is my pleasure to provide some highlights in the JSAN which was issued this month, namely December 2013. I quote extensively what the report says on (a) debt, (b) domestic resources mobilisation, (c) infrastructure development, (d) agricultural transformation, (e) micro-enterprise sector and (f) accountable governance.

What it boils down to is that Rwanda does not have a strategy in any of these six areas, beyond an amalgam of vague statements and documents.

Here we go:


The Joint Staff express concern on Rwanda’s borrowing “because of the country’s narrow export base.” In other words, the IMF and World Bank are wondering how Rwanda will pay back the loans if it does not earn by robust exporting. In their view, a larger debt service burden is high risk for a country whose debt was previously written off.


Joint Staffs state simply that the government in its current Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy “is largely silent about how this be will achieved.”


This is probably the most damning part of the JSAN which concludes as follows: “Over the past five years improvements in the investment climate have not been associated with a significant increase in private investment, which means the cost of doing business is still high.”

This assessment on meagre private investment is in sharp contrast to what the Rwandan rulers would have you believe – namely that domestic and foreign investment is rushing in! That is pure pipe dream!


Specialised agricultural skills “are needed to make land more productive, especially given the small average size of landholdings, and create linkages to markets…” JSAN encourages the government “to elaborate a detailed strategy for the development of agricultural skills.”


Promotion of small business and micro-enterprise sector “remains vague on the actual strategy to do so.” JSAN “encourages the government to design a solid strategy for the development of micro-enterprise sector.”


According to JSAN, a discussion of the changing requirements of the public service “is absent.” This needs to change. “The government will need to articulate clearly where priority focus will be in the medium term as regards to strengthening the capacity of different levels of government ”

Singapore of Africa without a strategy for critical priorities – debt management, domestic resources mobilisation, infrastructure development for fostering the private sector, agricultural transformation, micro-enterprise sector and accountable governance! Go figure!

There you have it folks.

I encourage everyone to visit the IMF website and dig into the documents directly.

David Himbara