Rwanda's grand ambitions
Are the targets set by government at the 9th leadership retreat achievable?
From Mar. 3-7, Rwanda’s top leadership was tucked away in the Rwanda Military Academy in Gako, Bugesera district, for the 9th Leadership Retreat. The annual event locally known as “Umwiherero”, is a critical platform for Rwanda’s leaders to set new targets and goals for country, and this year, for the first time, the event took place far from its traditional venue at the exotic Gisenyi Serena Hotel on the beaches of Lake Kivu. As President Paul Kagame, who chaired the retreat, explained, the new venue, a military setting for cadet training, was not only meant to cut costs but also to instill a greater sense of discipline and focus around the retreat.
The retreat included compulsory morning runs by all leaders---including ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of institutions, ambassadors and representatives of the private sector—who all shared communal dormitories commonly used by soldiers at the camp.
For five days, 250 leaders plotted the country’s new targets and goals, some of which might be considered overly ambitious given the resources available and the one year period the government gave itself.
During the opening and closing of the retreat, President Kagame pointed out that while the country had registered a lot of progress in the past 17 years, a lot more needs to be done if the country is to achieve its revised target to be a middle income country by 2020. Kagame challenged his officials to shift gears and implement decisions that impact and improve the lives of the ordinary people if the country was to accelerate towards achieving its development vision.
To ensure results, all government ministers and the country’s ambassadors and high commissioners signed performance contracts (Imihigo) and made commitments of what they will deliver over the next year. The demand for the officials to sign Imihigo, a home-grown initiative for local leaders to make commitments and meet them, was made by citizens during the 9th National Dialogue last December after a concerned citizen called in and suggested the idea.
During the retreat the focus was mainly put on poverty reduction, which has been buoyed of late by a recent household survey that indicated a 12% decline in poverty levels over the last five years. The government also targets creating 1.7 million mainly off-farm jobs by 2020 as the country battles to reduce its 90% dependence on the agriculture sector and cut down levels of youth unemployment.
Prime Minister Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi readout the commitments of the central government leaders and the government’s action plan for the upcoming year. “Our commitments are drawn from the government action plan of the fiscal year 2011/12. The commitments we are making are some of the priority areas where we need to act, as well as targets to be met by individual ministries,” he said
Among the new targets, Habumuremyi said that in a bid to promote trade, the government will establish the Rwanda Grain and Cereal Corporation (RGCC), which will be created and given the capacity to buy 30, 000 tonnes in produce from farmers. In the same light, in a bid to create market for milk, the premier said that the government will lay strategies to set up milk processing plants as well as market chains that will ensure that all the milk from across the country has market.
“In a bid to ensure access to petroleum products, we will put in place a new petroleum policy and an act on trade in petroleum products will be put in place,” the PM added. “We will also put in place a roadmap to build oil reserves that can supply the country for a period of three months.”
A national policy on sugar will also be approved, while plans to expand the Kabuye Sugar Factory and production will be put in place. The Premier also said that the country will put in place reforms that will see Rwanda obtain at least the 40th position in the 2013 Doing Business Rankings by the World Bank.
Habumuremyi said that the government will target bringing in investments worth $416 million, while 5, 000 SMEs will benefit from capacity building through Business Development Service (BDS). The first 300 winning projects in Hanga Umurimo programme, an initiative to create at least 2100 off-farm jobs, will be given support to employ about 600, while 20 struggling business firms will be supported to come back to life.
The PM added that in a bid to increase energy supply and electrification, the government will fast track energy projects that have started including Mazimeru in Nyaruguru district, Musarara in Gakenke, all of which are to be added to the grid by July.
“We want to see 35,000 families, 12 teacher training colleges and seven health centres powered with solar power, while 320 households and eight schools will be given biogas,” he said. “Works to complete a 25MW methane gas plant by Contour Global will be fast tracked. We will also focus on speeding up the 28MW Nyabarongo I Hydro project while Rukara II will also be implemented.”
The PM committed to follow up on six micro hydro projects to be completed by the end of the year, in addition to increasing access to clean water. The premier also said more tarmac roads will be built in and outside the city.
Finally, the premier highlighted the commitments made by the ambassadors, which include attracting foreign investors into the country and also finding markets for Rwandan products. “All embassies will be required to attract more friends for the
country and also take part in all activities where Rwanda has interests,” said Habumuremyi. “They will also continue encouraging Rwandans to represent the interests of the country and also present its image positively.”
The big question is how feasible are these targets. An implementation report released during the retreat showed that the government had achieved 73.4 percent of the recommendations from last year’s Leadership Retreat. However, there were severe shortfalls particularly in the area of energy where only 3MW of the agreed 10MW were added to the grid, with the only electricity plant, Rukarara Mini hydro, registered in the same year.
When asked to explain the causes of the shortfall, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Protais Musoni said that the problem was not lack of resources but rather a problem of the government awarding contracts to the wrong people without the capacity to implement the expensive projects to generate electricity. Rukarara Mini Hydro has since become a source of controversy and a subject of investigation after it was discovered that the $20 million plant, designated to produce 9.5MW, was producing less than a maximum of 5MW.
“We were faced with issues of lack of capacity by the firms that had been awarded contracts,” said Musoni. “So what we are going to do is repossess the tenders and also punish the contractors of Rukarara by asking them to refund part of money in the agreement because they didn’t meet standard.”
As Musoni continued to read out the government’s list of resolutions for the year ahead, he was interrupted by the president who advised him and his colleagues to consider carefully the feasibility of the targets set vis-a-vis the available resources and sources of energy before setting such a high target. Kagame dully advised the concerned ministries and the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) to sit and revise the targeted energy generation and available sources before it could be fully adopted in the resolutions.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) published findings which painted a picture that was a far cry from what government officials were projecting. IPAR research highlighted that while the government has implemented a number of job creation initiatives and income generating initiatives for youths and SMEs, the government’s approach to job creation remains fragmented and insufficiently coordinated.“This reduces the impact of such isolated initiatives in generating adequate jobs to match the growing number of new entrants on Rwanda’s labour market,” the research noted. “There is insufficient recognition of the importance of household enterprises yet far more people are self-employed or work in a non-farm household enterprise than are employed in paid non-farm employment.”
IPAR further called for polices to support SMEs because currently they are not adequate to meet the needs of household enterprises. It warned that the revised Vision 2020 target for poverty reduction implies a need to increase the number of productive employment opportunities, defined as employment that provides incomes above the poverty line, by almost 2.5 million.“These jobs will primarily need to be created in the non-farm sectors. The non-agricultural sectors of the economy will be expected to absorb the entire labour force increase until 2020, plus an additional 400 thousand from agriculture,” it indicated.
According to the 2009 National Institute of Statistics-Rwanda population projections, the population of Rwanda is expected to increase by some 300,000 people per year over the coming 15 years, reaching 13.8 million by 2020. Over the same period, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) projects that the Rwandan labour force will increase by well over 40 per cent, i.e. by almost two million.
According to the research, apart from reducing the large backlog of working poor, in particular in agriculture, the Rwandan labour market will have to absorb an annual increment of some 120-125,000 new labour market entrants per year. IPAR calls for a need for joint thinking and a more coordinated approach to job creation if new entrants to the labour market are to be absorbed into productive work over the next eight years.
Consequently, during the retreat, the government chose to revise its Vision 2020 targets on job creation, moving it from 1.4 million jobs to 1.7 million jobs and revising poverty reduction targets to 15% by 2017.
This appears to be an uphill task given the increasing number of graduates released by universities, but the Minister of Trade and Industry Francois Kanimba, who oversees the ‘Hanga Umurimo’ programme, remains optimistic that it is achievable.“We still got a long way to go. We need to align capacity building and skills development with our development vision and we need to move from subsistence farming towards modern farming and value addition,” he said. “We also know that in order to create all the 1.7 million, it will not be the government absorbing all these people but rather people coming up with feasible projects that can be supported under the ‘Hanga Umurimo’ programme.”
Revised targets at a glance
Shift Rwanda to a middle income country by 2020 and revise the targeted GDP Per Capita from $900 to $1,240.
Attain life expectancy of 63 from an earlier projected 53, having moved from 35 in 2000. This would be possible through increasing access to healthcare, education and improving food security.
Curtail population growth at 2.2% by achieving between 3-4.6 children per woman from an earlier projection of 5 children per woman. Rwanda’s biggest threat to development remains population growth, paired with an increasing shortage of land.
Ensure that 35% of Rwandans live in urban centres by 2020. The earlier target was 22% but with the current 14% in urban centres, Rwanda thinks 35% is possible by 2020.
In 2000, 107/1000 children under 5 would die, the government targeted 50/1000 but now the figure has been revised down to 30/1000. This would be possible by increasing access to antenatal care.
In the year 2000, 1070/100,000 women would die giving birth. The government targets reducing that to 200/100,000. It currently stands at 487/100, 000.
3 out of 100 children are malnourished; the government targets 0.5 children out of 100, while malaria deaths will be reduced from 13/100 to 5 or less.
Nurse/Patient ratio to move from 16/100, 000 to 67/100, 000
Maintain an average of 11.5% GDP growth to take the country to a middle income one by 2020 instead of 2030.
70% access to electricity by 2020
Reduce the number of people in poverty to 20%. The target was 30% by 2020. Currently it’s at 47%.