In January of this year, Oxford's Paul Collier and Jean-Louis Warnholz published an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled "Now's the Time to Invest in Africa." The title is quite self-explanatory: they argue that over the last several years trends have emerged throughout the continent to present a prime investment climate. This includes political stability, international and economic policies, and business profits and growth.
This is certainly true, and perhaps more surprisingly, is true especially of Rwanda - a country which commemorated 15 years since the genocide a mere week ago. In those fifteen years, however, much has changed and Rwanda is quickly moving towards establishing itself as one of Africa's most investment-friendly havens. Among those placing their faith in Rwanda are the CEOs of Starbucks and Costco, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and former British PM Tony Blair. For them and others, Rwanda is regarded as the most undervalued 'stock' on the continent, and presents a unique opportunity to bring innovation to a nation.
Rwandan president Kagame has been credited with marshaling much of the country's turnaround. Indeed, though problems of civil liberties loom large, the economy is booming. Kagame's strategy is quite a curious one, closely mirroring Chinese strategies, rooted as they are in guanxi networks:
Kagame's strategy relies on wealthy and powerful friends to lure private investment, train a new generation of managers, build a globally competitive economy, and wean the country off foreign aid. Even as troubling questions remain about Kagame's involvement in the region's ongoing conflicts, this unpaid, business-savvy team is marketing the brand called Rwanda.
The spirit behind 'brand Rwanda' is a distinctly entrepreneurial one, and resonates across all industrial sectors. Most prominently, perhaps, is the emphasis being placed on the country's information and communications-technology sector, which is pivotal to Rwanda's ambitious development strategy and has been rocketing young entrepreneurs into the domestic and global marketplace.
Fifteen years on, Rwanda is seemingly moving in the right direction. If the country is any example, it may be time for the West to invest in Africa after all.
[HT: Elizabeth Palchik Allen]