The New Times (Kigali)

25 July 2014

Rwanda Fastest Growing Economy in Ten Years - Report

Rwanda recorded the fastest growth in Africa between the years 2000 and 2013, according to the latest UN Human Development Report (HDR).

Compiled annually by the United Nations Development Programme, the 2014 report was launched on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. It is entitled; 'Sustaining human progress: reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience.'

It says that between 2000 and 2013, Sub Saharan Africa was the second sub-region in as far as achieving high progress in human development is concerned. Human development, according to UNDP, has a combination of three factors; income, health and education.

"Rwanda and Ethiopia achieved the fastest growth, followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia, the report reads in part.

For sustainability, the UN urges countries to transition from agriculture-based economies to industry and services, while supporting investments in infrastructure and education so that more people can get jobs in the formal sector.

"Africa is enjoying higher levels of economic growth and well-being, but insecurity, as well as natural or human-induced disasters, persist in some parts of the region," Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa, is quoted saying in a statement.

He said countries in Sub-Saharan Africa need to intensify their battle against deprivation and prevent crises from ruining recent development gains.

"Withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable, who are the most affected, are key to sustainable development," he said.

"The eradication of poverty is not just about 'getting to zero'-it is also about staying there," the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, points out in the Foreword, adding that the report's focus on resilience is highly relevant to the current discussions on the post-2015 global development agenda.

Social protection:

Furthermore, social protection schemes such as unemployment insurance and pensions, universal health coverage and cash transfers can help individuals and communities weather difficult times and invest in the future, says the report.

Under the social protection initiatives in the just concluded 2013/2014 national budget, government continued to support the needy, including Genocide survivors, by giving them health care, education, monthly stipends and fostering income generating activities.

Expert's take:

In an interview with The New Times, Andrew Mold, a senior economist with the UN Economic Commission for Africa based in Kigali, attributed Rwanda's performance to provision of health care to the citizenry.

"The report singles out China, Rwanda and Vietnam for having achieved the transition from very low health care coverage to nearly universal coverage within just a decade," said Mold, who heads the Eastern Africa Data Centre for UNECA.

He said this was reflected in the country's rapidly growing life expectancy.

"Back in 2000, it was just 47 years but it is now close to 64 years which is impressive by any standards," he said.

On the financial component, he said the steady economic growth was another attribute that led to the country's commendation in the report, saying that much as the country's ambitious 11.5 per cent growth rate set out in EDPRS II has not yet been achieved, income per capita has grown steadily over the past decade.

EDPRS II is the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, a blueprint adopted to steer the country's development for a five-year period, starting 2013.

"The performance has still been good, at over 7 per cent per annum. Moreover, despite the global economic recession in 2008-9, the Rwandan economy proved to be quite resilient," Mold said.

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