If you live outside Africa, and you give money to causes there, can you ever imagine a day when you won’t do it? Whether the answer is yes or no, you’d also probably say, “but I’d like to”.
Well, Africans would like to get to that point too, but so far, no-one seems to have cracked just how to get the continent off the aid drip. But Rwanda has some ideas.
President Paul Kagame has been the most outspoken of all African leaders in his desire to wean his country off foreign assistance. He explains why in this comment piece for the Financial Times.
His big idea for how to go about it seems to be rooted in wooing foreign investors through a combination of ferocious networking, personal charm and creating a stable, anti-corruption, pro-business environment for investors. (If you have time to read a fantastic, but long, article on the Rwandan model, do check out this piece from Fast Company magazine)
So far, Rwanda seems to be making a good attempt at it. We’ve met a number of investors since we’ve been here who say they’ve come to set up shop in Rwanda not out of charity, but because they think they can make a buck.
A little bit of altruism and a lot of eyeing the potential profits.
But, despite all its advances, half the government’s budget still comes from foreign sources. And that’s not including all the private charity projects that assist everything from health, to farming, to education.
Theories on how best to cut the aid cord abound. On the most extreme side, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo suggests simply :
“I have long believed that far from being a catalyst, foreign aid has been the biggest single inhibitor of Africa’s growth…….. For Africa to grow in a sustained way, foreign aid will have to be dramatically reduced over time, forcing countries to adopt more transparent strategies to finance development. “
The picture below is of the street outside the Traveler’s cafe in Rubangura.
It’s where we’ll be discussing ths issue later today in a place that teems with trade and activity for most of the day and evening.
Will Rwanda’s “can do” attitude and the leadership of Paul Kagame set an example for the rest of the continent ?
Or will the dream of an aid-free Africa stay just that- a dream ?