Rwanda’s economic recovery since 1995 is not in dispute. Its GDP grew by a solid 5.3% in 2009 and a remarkable 11.2% in 2008, the toughest year of the global financial crisis. It is therefore not much of a surprise that the country’s government has something of a swagger in its step.

Brushing off international critics who took issue with the fairness of its most recent election, its prime minister Bernard Makuza is actively marketing the country and particularly its capital Kigali.

Advertisement

Capital plans

Plans are certainly afoot in Kigali for the development of new commercial and housing zones. There are also measures to improve the city’s infrastructure, notably its roads, sewage system, street lighting and city parks, all done with a keen interest to respect the environment. Mr Makuza, who is Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s first cousin, refers to it as the “master plan” for the city and he is actively seeking the participation of foreign investors to make this happen.

Mr Makuza is also keen to emphasise the country’s low tolerance for corruption. While the country is still ranked mid-table in Transparency International’s corruption perception index, it is the third best-ranked African country, and actually comes ahead of EU members Italy, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.

Mr Makuza says: “We’re searching for foreign investors to partner with local groups to buy properties in Rwanda. They’re interested in the incentives we’re offering and the growth we have experienced in the past few years.”

There are also measures being taken for the rest of the country, though for the moment the onus of the development seems to be aimed at the capital. The prime minister, flanked by the deputy governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Claver Gatete, explains that for the country’s 30 districts there would also be efforts to attract investment into the energy, agriculture, mining, information and communications technology and real-estate sectors.

Security issues

Yet as with any country with a history as bloody and turbulent as Rwanda's, investors will always be concerned with issues of stability and the potential for conflicts to flare up. Only a few weeks ago, three dissident generals in the Rwandan army joined rebel forces across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mr Makuza describes the generals as “unpatriotic” and sharply criticises their departure, saying it was ridiculous for them to claim they were forced to seek asylum across the border. But not to worry, claims the prime minister. In his opinion, relations across the country’s borders have improved dramatically over the past few years, particularly those with the DRC.

Mr Makuza says: “Firstly, political stability is improving across the whole region. Rwanda has a good relationship with all its neighbours and there are mechanisms in all those countries to improve the security situation which weren’t there a few years ago. But the governments there, even in the DRC, are really in charge and Rwanda is trying to contribute to their stability and security. You always have to be on guard, but things can happen anywhere, even in the US or Europe.”

On the recent developments in north Africa, he says that the root cause of the situations in these countries was a failure of governance. Governments, he says, that do not meet the needs of their people will never succeed in bringing peace or prosperity.