IFA president Neil De Beer.
CAPE TOWN – “When can a woman make you a millionaire?” The answer is: “When you are a billionaire!” This was a joke printed on beer labels of Skol, the international beer brand popular in Rwanda. The joke was taken head-on by the public when it was launched on Friday, as being sexist. And thus the company stopped it two days later.

Rwanda is regarded as the world’s gender-equality champion. The country boasts the highest percentage of women in parliament - 67.5 percent - and, according to the World Economic Forum, it ranks sixth for its effort to reduce the gender gap (preceded only by four Scandinavian countries, and Nicaragua).

Rwanda, the fourth smallest country in Africa is one of the world’s smallest nations, measuring 26 338km² with an estimated population of 12.3 million and an estimated gross domestic product of $9.51 billion (R145.53bn), according to the World Bank in 2018.

The country is ranked second in Africa on ease of doing business reported in 2019, behind Mauritius, which is first, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019.

Rwanda has moved to 29th globally from 49th place in 2016. Business registration in Rwanda is done in 48 hours. President Paul Kagame is aspiring to make Rwanda a middle- income country and high-income country status by 2035 and 2050, respectively.

Rwanda is a rising star in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, rising from the ashes of the 1994 genocide to the heights of claiming a global prize as one of the fastest-rising economies in Africa, and the world. The impact of the genocide was brutal and it led to internal displacements and refugees fleeing into the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda (close to 2 million people), with the death of nearly 1 million people.

It’s humbling and hopeful to see a country coming together so strongly and willingly back from such a terrible event to rebuild one of the success stories in Africa in economic and social development. Rwanda has experienced robust economic and social performances, with growth averaging 7.5 percent over a decade to 2017, while per capita GDP grew at 4.7 percent annually. The poverty rate dropped from 39.1 percent in 2014 to 38.1 percent in 2017, while inequality measured by the Gini coefficient stood at 0.42 points. On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 500 RwF (R8.40) and the price of a litre or petrol is 1091 RwF (R18.33). Inflation has declined from 13.5 percent in 1990 to -0.8 percent in 2018.

Kigali, the capital, is regarded as one of the cleanest cities in the world as Rwanda banned the use of plastic bags/sachet “amasashi” for environmental protection. The government has led the country in respecting the small, but value-adding initiatives such “umganda” - a consistent schedule in community cleaning days, which takes place every last Saturday of the month led by the president.

The leadership has driven Rwanda to become a leader of Africa's digital revolutions by investing in internet facilities like construction of fibre optics in all parts of the country. This has seen public institutions’ service delivery improving and revenue-collection made easy with less corruption, as tax declaration and payment, traffic penalties’ payment, and business registration among others, all done online.

Today, Rwanda has risen beyond all expectation to become an economic leader in its region, and indeed Africa.

Neil de Beer is president of the Investment Fund Africa (www.ifa.africa), and advises numerous African states on economic development.

BUSINESS REPORT