Rwanda is Not East Africa

No matter how much they want to be

rwanda business
Flights of Rwandair fancy
rwanda business
Free Rose Kabuye!
Many people have put forth the proposition that Rwanda is in East Africa. From high level agreements like COMESA down to the perceptions of East Africans, there is the feeling that Rwanda should be seen in the same light as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. I am here in Kigali to tell you they are all wrong.

Rwanda is not East Africa. And here are several reasons why:

Simplest, it’s a Francophone country, unlike Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania, which have strong British influences. French is the first language of many, and French culture shows through with more smokers in Kigali than all of Kenya and Uganda, and a return to right-side driving.

Next, unlike the others, Rwanda is a dollarized donor economy – at least 50% of all economic activity is directly related to the massive international development industry that is driving its growth. From the inflated taxi prices that would even make Nairobi taxi drivers blush, to procurement corruption that goes with stupid amounts of Western cash chasing incremental results.

Then, the country looks to itself or France before the rest of Europe or East Africa. One small, but telling aspect of inwardness is the inability of the ATM network to accept international bankcards. Every other African country has the capacity for international cash advances – even Nigeria and Togo! And then when people think of international travel, it’s to France before all others. No Ugandan would think Paris before London or New York.

Last but not least, I type this while all of Kigali is shut down for a protest. Regardless of the worthiness of the protest, I do not see Kenya or Uganda wasting a workday like this. Okay, maybe Kenya, but in Uganda they have too much to do to subject the entire capitol to a lost work day.

So the next time someone says that Rwanda is part of East Africa, ask why they think such nonsense. Rwanda is not East Africa. Not even close.

Business is Booming in Kigali

Get your profit while you can!

rwanda business
The face of prosperity
While there may be a recession in the developed world, you would not know it standing in downtown Kigali, Rwanda. All I can hear is the sound of business. But why read my description? See the boom with your own eyes:

Now don’t get all crazy and sell everything to move to Africa. This specific economy is very donor dependent – around half the economy is donor funded, greatly warping the business climate.

At the same time, that donor funding, while committed for 2009, may be much less in 2010 as governments try to stimulate demand in their own homelands instead of rebuilding others. In fact, I think all of us in the NGO world should brace for an industry-wide depression starting in late 2009.

But until then, enjoy the profit margins. They’re stupid high in this donor economy.