I spent the week of March 17th participating in an initiative of the International Growth Centre and the World Bank which culminated in a National Forum on Sustainable Urbanization on March 20-21 in Rwanda.
Rwanda has accomplished an enormous transformation since the genocide that rocked the country in 1994. Paul Kagame, leader of the rebel force that took control of the country and ended the genocide, (with no help whatever from the international community) has led a remarkable transformation. He has been able to resurrect pre-colonial tribal traditions of citizen participation in decision making, effect unification of the dissident factions, and lead the country in to a modern future; all in twenty years.
The first three days of the sabbatical was spent learning about Rwandan government, including the opportunity to interview many officials at both the national and local level. The Rwandan government is complex, which is expected for a government for a country of 11.5 million people. Interestingly, officials have continued to ‘struggle with’ the issue of how to build up and delegate to the 30 Districts across the country, which they consider their “local governments.” The City of Kigali is the capital city, with a population of 1.2 million, which is expected to double in population by 2030. Urbanization is viewed as advantageous because studies show that the more urbanized a country is, the more productive is its economy, with the corresponding beneficial influence on the rate of poverty. Today, Rwanda is secure (walking the streets of Kigali at night is common, without fear) and incredibly clean. Any American city would suffer in comparison on both counts.
My role was to work to identify ideas that could be contributed to Rwanda’s governance, development practices and planning. My charge was similar to a consulting engagement with Management Partners clients –to approach the project with respect for the world and humility in offering ideas for consideration; the latter being even more important in a country on a different continent with a culture and history quite different from our own.