20 January 2013

Rwanda: Can Rwanda Become Like Singapore?

Building a vibrant nation, especially in Africa, has been a very hard job; but Rwandans are likely to impose themselves in building up their nation like Singaporeans did, according to Prof. Vincent Chinedum Anigbogu, the Nigerian director general of the Institute for National Transformation, which has centers in Atlanta, Nairobi, Kampala and Lagos.

"What is going on in Rwanda is an encouragement and a model that all African countries will emulate," he told Rwandans, encouraging them to keep up the good work.

The Nigerian fighter for transformation commended Rwanda's development trend during a recent leadership prayer breakfast held in Kigali where he evoked Singapore's success story to predict Rwanda's bright future.

Anigbogu was preaching righteousness and sacrifice as the footprints of success. According to him, Rwanda and Singapore have similarities in their histories: both passed through times of uncertainty, they believed in themselves and kept pushing.

The South East Asian nation struggled from being a poor country in the early 60s to become one of the most prestigious countries worldwide today thanks to hard work, planning and improvising to establish themselves as a vibrant nation led by trade and investment and succeeded in service delivery despite lack of natural resources.

Statistics indicates that the country grew from a per-capita GDP of US$ 400 in 1959 to US$ 12,000 in 1990 and then reached US$ 22,000 in 1999.

Most of its employment is found in the service sector occupying around 90% while unemployment is only 2%. Rwanda, too, is committed to encourage off-farm job creation where the target is to create new 1.8 million jobs by 2017.

In addition, the World Bank called Singapore the easiest place in the world to do business. Its economy grew by 8.3% in 2004 and 14.5% in 2012, for instance.

"I do not know why I say Rwanda in what I'm reading about Singapore," Anigbogu pointed out. "I just want to encourage you. People did not care about Singapore. They passed through uncertain situation, but they believed themselves and they kept pushing. The same Singapore that struggled, that nobody gave a chance to succeed, is now exciting."

Anigbogu was comparing the progress that both countries got over the years starting from impasse situations. On Rwanda's side, the World Bank Doing Business 2012 report indicates that it is the third easiest place to do business in Africa, the first in the East African Community and the second five-year top global reformer.

This was achieved thanks to several reforms that have been undertaken over the years. For instance, registering a business can be done in only 6 hours. "It's quite impressive when I'm told that you can register your business in Rwanda in less 6 hours, that is just an incredible," Anigbogu said, adding that in some countries it takes even up to six months to register.

Highest percentage of millionaires

Poverty is rare in Singapore, even though it does not support policies to provide people with aid dependency, but encourages people to work hard through entrepreneurship so that next generations can get a better life.

Just like Rwanda, Singapore has no natural resources, but it has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world - one out of six households has at least one millionaire in US dollars. In addition, Singapore started with a small population of only 2 million people, while Rwanda has more than 10 million thus a bigger workforce as another resource to foster development.

But the crucial question to answer is to know how Singapore developed despite lack of natural resources and little human capital. According to Anigbogu, the answer is simple: Singaporeans had good plans and were hard workers to make their country a vibrant nation led by investment and trade for the dissemination of goods, services and information in the region.

"I also see Rwanda as viable nation for trade and investment, for the dissemination of goods, services and information in the East African Community," he observed, adding that this vision should be shared not only by top leaders, but also middle leaders so that all citizens might own it.

What is worrying, according to Anigbogu, is that many African countries still lack good structures enabling economic growth and welfare of their population. He also criticized African intellectuals who only have certificates, but lack critical thinking. "No country can develop beyond the quality of the students they produce, unless you go outside the country to import workforce, which is very expensive," he noted.

According to him, most of intellectuals in Africa spend their time from 5 pm to midnight in clubs and playing golf while in the developed countries it's a time for thinking about great projects. That Singapore's experience is relevant for us is not new for Rwandans. Top leaders of the country have even been following Singapore's experience. President Kagame for instance backed Anigbogu saying that Rwandans must have a vision for where they want to go and work to achieve like Singapore did.

"We cannot become Singapore, we are Rwanda, but we can be like Singapore," he pointed out. "What God gave to Singapore is what has been given to all of us. What is left is for us to build on what we have to achieve it."

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