Rwanda Is East African Community’s Poorest State: World Bank’s Newly-Released 2020 Data

By David Himbara

General Paul Kagame’s Vision 2020 launched in 2000 was to transform Rwanda into a middle-income state by the year 2020. This was a mirage – the newly-published World Bank 2020 data confirms this. Rwanda remains the poorest country in the East African Community (EAC), except for Burundi that is affected by conflict. Outside the region, Rwanda is outperformed by Haiti, a country generally considered to be a failed state.

In the newly released 2020 data by the World Bank, Rwanda’s GDP per capita stands at US$797.9. This is far too short of what Kagame aimed to achieve by 2020, namely, a GDP per capita of US$1,240 that would have ushered Rwanda into the middle-income league. Comparatively, Rwanda remains the poorest country in EAC, only ahead of Burundi that is in conflict. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan are all ahead of Rwanda, with Tanzania having joined Kenya in 2020 as the region’s two middle-income states. Further afield, Rwanda is not even close to Haiti, a country often referred to as “the failed state that keeps failing.” Haiti’s GDP per capita in 2020 was US$1,176.8 versus Rwanda’s at US$797.9. Kagame ought to walk back his 2013 boast that Rwanda is an economic powerhouse following in the footsteps of the Asian economic tigers of Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is how Kagame put it in his 2013 infamous Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Rwanda and the New Lions of Africa”:

“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. So while being described as an “African tiger” is a welcome recognition of how far Rwanda has come, perhaps it isn’t quite right. After all, our continent has its own big cat. Step forward the new lions of Africa.”

What we have here is a severe case of delusions of grandeur, sharply contradicted by the Rwandan realities. But as is often said, the truth always has a way of coming out. The truth just came out.