Last Saturday June the 17th , was yet another milestone in our politics, a day in which RPF’s National Congress that brought together over two thousands senior RPF cadres from the whole country all brought together by unity of purpose. Choosing a flag bearer for 2017 elections. This congress endorsed President Paul Kagame as their candidate of choice, a choice that was informed by his exemplary leadership record which was highlighted in the same congress, ranging from security and thus stability that is a rare commodity in most developing countries and of late in a number of developed countries. Economic development that has transformed our country from a failed state it was in 1994, to one of the fasted growing economies in the world and without resource endowment to speak of Social transformation and unity that had been elusive for far too long in Rwanda, and indeed in many post conflict countries, from Burundi to Iraq, CAR to Libya, South Sudan to Syria, name it.
The endorsement of President Paul Kagame by RPF and a number of opposition parties was organized in the iconic and magnificent multi-billion RPF headquarters’ conference centre (RPFCC), with capacity to host over 2500 people, and one that gives convention centre a pinch in its architectural design and structure. This is another achievement by President Paul Kagame, in particular and RPF generally, and a sign that RPF is here to stay. This permanent home symbolizes permanency of a party that few other parties whether in the region or even beyond can lay claim. It also signifies the vision of our leadership and where we headed to. The venue did not only symbolize the vision and leadership of Chairman RPF, but also sent serious message like in our other development fit that, the very best for Rwanda is yet to come through RPF leadership. And so opposition party leaders present and who endorsed President Paul Kagame as their candidate of choice for the forthcoming election must have been more than convinced of the decision they had made.
The youth and indeed our future leaders were challenged by party Chairman to participate in our country’s politics, which is typical of a leadership that does what says and this was a call of duty above self. Unlike many Africa’s political economies where old politicians are replaced in the event of their death or serious disabilities, and even then by other old guards, ours is fundamentally different. Thus we have youthful Ministers, Mayors, parliamentarians and other bureaucrats who has contributed immensely to the development of our country. The message should have been received by our youth well, given the above assuring political environment in place. As a people and country, we have chosen to define our destiny, and own it up for this is a sustainable model of development unlike many prescriptive models imposed by the west that have failed to deliver to Africa’s political economy as well as to real economic sectors.
In 1998, at a conference with the then President of World Bank (Mr James Wolfensohn) in Oxford University, that brought together African academics economists in UK, central bank governors and other renowned African economists (which I attended), he did admit that, the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs (SAPs) which were a set of economic as well as political prescriptive conditions aimed at ensuring development of African countries, had total failed. They failed because they were not owned by Africans, least not designed to fit countries’ specificity, but rather, a one- size- fit all approach to our problems. They also failed because Africa was treated as one country and more insulting “Africans did not know what is good for them” an implied inference from all this.
Time is gone when Africa was ruled by a bunch of illiterates who succumbed to these schemes with consequences that, our next generations will have to contend with for long. This was true in economic matters as in politics, for the two are bed fellows anyway. You cannot disentangle one from the other. We have come along, and the journey is long, but at least we know where we are, and certainly know where we need to go. They are no more lectures; economic or political. The reverse could be true, if only humility prevailed in the west. It is not expected, but so bit. For even China, which was banished by the know it all, is a case study of a new development paradigm that have been called all sorts of terms ranging from modified socialism, controlled capitalism name it. At the end of the day, what is important is that, the model has yielded results to Chinese people. Results that have vindicated even its ardent critics in the west whose silence and collaboration with China, is a sign of admission that, they are bad lecturers least to themselves.
Good news is, in case of Rwanda, our development is defined by ourselves and our friends and partners come on board to assist us. They no longer dictate to us the so called “Washington Consensus” that has nothing to show for it, except for a string of policy failures that have only served to retard the development of a continent that was at the same pace of development as Asian Tigers (some countries such as Kenya, Ghana were ahead of Asian Tigers) four decades ago, but is now said to be rising. Rising with the realization that, our development is our and ours only, and can only come from Africans.
Our development (economic or political) be it Rwandans, or African for that matter, has to be owned. And as long it gives results to our people, this is the ideal model we need and indeed deserve. What it all means is that, we should not allow anybody to lecture us on our political destiny as it has been for our economic destiny, which lectures have only yielded systematic failures that have been pretty expensive in all facets.
This narrative of ownership of our development agenda was a policy choice of President Paul Kagame, when in 2003, he was clear and emphatically that this was best way to go, and one that is sustainable. To some of us who were party to it, this was a tall order given our knowledge of Breton Wood Institutions (World Bank, and IMF) and their rigid prescriptive policies. Yet these institutions did yield to President Kagame’s development trajectory, for their believed in his leadership. I am not sure whether they believed in the success of this model of development at the time.
I am pretty sure they now do, for there is everything to show for its successful pursuit and few failures thereof if any. A fundamental challenge, and indeed negation of the “Washington Consensus” that remains academic.
This is a prudent lesson to other African economies, if only their leadership systems are ready and capable of undertaking such a model. There is no alternative to this model anyway. Own up, or settle for permanent developmental ‘paralysis’.
Professor Nshuti Manasseh is an Economist and Financial Expert
Email: [email protected]