‘He is neither a messiah nor a dictator, but a CEO with a vision’

Saturday January 19 2013

Rwanda President Paul Kagame. Photo/File

It’s a picture of a flawless company, efficiently run by its chief executive with the support of well-oiled institutions manned by individuals who understand their duties and responsibilities.

There is no room to err. Any flaws, complacency or lack of accountability is punished because “Big Brother” (the CEO) is always watching.

In their latest book, Rwanda Inc: How a devastated nation became an economic model for the developing world, Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond use this analogy to discuss Rwanda’s tremendous progress since the devastating war and genocide in 1994, with President Paul Kagame at the helm.

According to the authors, the 234-page book, which was officially launched in Kigali on December 18 by President Kagame, is the “unfolding narrative of self-determination and increasing self-reliance, about a country in a hurry to get where it wants and needs to be.”

A mostly positive assessment of the past 18 years, the book analyses Rwanda as a business model of development and governance, mainly through the eyes of President Kagame, his vision and the progress the country has made.

The Chicago-based writers, who have co-authored a number of books on business, share their personal experiences with President Kagame, whom they describe as an “astute, charismatic nonsense leader” whose resolve to achieve is unmatched.


From the onset, they make it clear that their intention is not to change the global perception of Rwanda, but “rather tell a story from their own eyes and experiences” and show the rest of the world that “all around Rwanda, a new narrative is unfolding; one of self-determination and increasing self-reliance, and of a country in a hurry to get where it wants and needs to be.”

They discuss Rwanda’s accomplishments, how it achieved them and the country’s attempts to wean itself off development aid, and the ambitious vision to transform the economy from an agro-based economy to a service and industrial one.

Rwanda Inc is not all about the rosy picture. The authors also discuss those who don’t view Rwanda as a success story, particularly the recent spate of criticism the country has experienced, taking away the tag “Darling of the West.”

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“Critics have emerged, vocal and opinionated. Some are former architects of the genocide and their supporters, who both want nothing more than to defeat Rwanda by undermining its current leadership and to reverse the progress made to unify people who embrace a national identity of being Rwandan,” they state.

The book also captures the latest developments that affect Rwanda, such as the conflict in DRC, donors demanding more from Kigali as well as aid cuts, all of which could have implications on the progress of the country.

READ: FDI could bridge Rwanda’s aid gap

It attempts, for example, to compare Rwanda with its neighbours such as Democratic Republic of Congo, which despite massive resources, have failed to register similar progress.

The authors attempt to bring out two portraits of President Kagame — one, a saviour, nearly messianic in his mission and vision, who has singlehandedly delivered the nation out of hell on earth; the other, a heavy-handed tyrant, who silences the opposition.

According to the authors, these two extremes became guardrails for them as they studied and analysed his style of leadership — finding out that he is neither of the two extremes.

READ: Kagame takes a swipe at critics of his govt, leadership

How Rwanda Inc came about

Years of visits to Rwanda; interacting with the country’s leaders as well as ordinary citizens, interacting with “Friends of Rwanda” such as Paul Allen of Bridge to Rwanda, an NGO operating in Rwanda, and Michael Fairbanks; and years of research yielded the idea of Rwanda Inc.

Ms Redmond came up with the idea before selling it to Ms Crisafulli.

“We wanted to tell a story of Rwanda that hasn’t really been told, from the perspective of leadership, governance, business and economic development. When we put all these together, we came up with the title Rwanda Inc,” Ms Redmond explained.

In their bid to depict Rwanda as a business venture, the co-authors project President Kagame as a CEO rather than a political leader, what with the responsibility he carries, holding others accountable, and his drive.

The writers bring out the factors that make the current Rwandan model similar to the way a company is run, explaining in detail how the “Rwanda Inc” machine operates.

“For a business to operate profitably, you need effective leadership or good organisation; what exists in Rwanda to our mind is quite unique because it has a leader who has been able to articulate a very strong vision,”

“He has been able to put in place a government that has credibility in the eyes of the people,” Ms Redmond observes.

“The figures speak for themselves. The results are there for all to see — from the 8.5 per cent GDP growth to 1 million people being lifted out of poverty in just five years, improvement in the ease of doing business — all this data points to the story we tell.”

From the onset, the authors state that their work is independent, not commissioned by anyone and not officially sanctioned, even though they had the co-operation of the government and that of President Kagame.

“No one in the Rwandan government reviewed our drafts, nor did they even seek quote approval. Such access was not only gracious but courageous, particularly at a time when Rwanda has come under sharp criticism around issues of speech and human rights,” the authors say in their introduction.