One of my readers doubts the sincerity of some international development agencies that hold up Rwanda as a model for development in Africa. The reader wishes me to comment on this matter. I use the case the World Bank Group to support my reader’s contention.

I show briefly that World Bank Group appears to suffer from
Schizophrenia when it deals with Rwanda. Schizophrenia describes someone characterised by the coexistence antagonistic elements – or simply, someone who is “two-faced.” In the process, the World Bank unwittingly or otherwise becomes the chief propagandist for the Kagame government. Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Here is my evidence.

Begin with the statement by the then President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, following his tour of the methane power project in Rubavu District in 2009:

“Rwanda has the capacity to be a leader for the rest of Africa, showing that these policies can be implemented and showing how it will be done.”,,contentMDK:22275423~menuPK:717365~pagePK:34004173~piPK:34003707~theSitePK:717306,00.html

What is most shocking is that Zoellick made this crazy statement in 2009 when Rwanda was experiencing its recurrent power supply crisis. The 2009 crisis is what precisely precipitated the World Bank’s “Urgent Electricity Rehabilitation Project” (UERP) which aimed at eliminating load shedding. By financing the Jabana Heavy Fuel Oil Power Plant in 2009, and rehabilitating the transmission grid infrastructure around Kigali, the World Bank in effect helped avert Rwanda’s severe power crisis. Crucially, the World Bank-financed 21MW Jahana plant, electricity supply increased from 41MW to 75MW in 2010.,,contentMDK:22707397~menuPK:64256345~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

What then could have motivated the President of the World Bank to contend that Africa could learn from Rwanda in the field of power generation and distribution? How could a country in the middle electricity crisis, and with a meagre 41MW in 2009, become a model for Africa? Crazy stuff!

The World Bank is at it again.

More recently in February 2013, Jean Philippe Prosper, Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa for IFC, World Bank Group, made the following extraordinary claim:

“Rwanda exemplifies how government and the private sector can build a stronger nation and economy.”

‘Strong nation’ means what exactly? ‘Strong economy’ means what? What is so enviable about Rwanda’s private sector to the extent that it exemplies success?

But against such flattering rhetoric, the latest World Bank’s own update on Rwanda’s economic situation makes a gloomy reading. I present a few highlights as follows:

* Over 40% of public expenditures is from official development aid – equivalent to 12% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP);

* To counter 20% of decline of aid, Rwanda has resorted to drawing from foreign reserves which now cover only three months of imports down from 5 months; and to domestic borrowing;

* “Because Rwanda remains highly reliant on official development aid, its projected growth is correlated with the level of external aid flows;”

* “Increased engagement in wage employment has been largely negative for the rural poor…Because of the low level of education and skills, in most cases, the only alternative is unattractive wage labour in the informal rural economy;”

* “Despite the large decrease in poverty headcount, the absolute number of people in poverty declined by only 1%, due to high population growth.”

So what are to make of this double-talk by the World Bank?

I found this definition of propaganda on a World Bank blog:

“Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

The World Bank may miss the irony here. It is the propagandist in this case – but one that evidently suffers from schizophrenia. The question is – what is the desired intent of this rather crude propagandist?

David Himbara