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Dave Chikosi: Visionary leadership is why Rwanda will continue to outcompete Zimbabwe

It’s safe to say you won’t find any portly and corrupt “ever obedient" sons in a Kagame administration

By Dave Chikosi

It’s safe to say you won’t find any portly and corrupt “ever obedient” sons in a Kagame administration

Bishop Dave Chikosi
Bishop Dave Chikosi

Rwanda is a purpose driven country. Rick Warren is NY Times best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” He claims Rwanda as his home, and he has the diplomatic passport to back his claim. That passport was given to him by Rwanda’s President Kagame in recognition of his service in the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC).

A co-chair of Kagame’s PAC is an American multimillionaire businessman named Joe Ritchie. Ritchie also happens to be a founding CEO of the Rwandan Development Board.

It was Ritchie who in 2003 handed Kagame a copy of Rick Warren’s best-selling book. While Kagame himself is not a religious man by his own admission, he however, will not hesitate to use religion to advance his development agenda.

Which is why, after reading the book, Kagame invited Warren to join his PAC.

The aforementioned Joe Ritchie also had a business partner at his Fox River Financial Resources named Dan Cooper. In 2006 Cooper made a telephone call to Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco. Cooper wanted Sinegal to meet Kagame. The three eventually had lunch together in New York.

Kagame later visited Costco HQ in Seattle. Costco is one of America’s top three retailers and the world’s largest membership warehouse chain. Sinegal, in turn, visited Rwanda, and the upshot of all this traffic is that Costco is now one of the two biggest buyers of Rwandan coffee.

The giant retailer buys as much as 25% of Rwanda coffee. The other big buyer is Starbucks. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was introduced to Kagame by Costco’s Jim Sinegal. I hope you are beginning to get the picture.

The ability to leverage a network of important international business relationships has been one of Kagame’s key strategies for national development. I will venture to say that Kagame’s own social capital may very well be the most important asset in Rwanda’s portfolio.

Your network is your net worth. This is true of both the individual and the nation state. Good leaders invest in human capital and find a way to leverage human relationships for mutual benefit. Successful relationships and partnerships are key to growth and development.

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But successful relationships and partnerships are built on mutual trust. And mutual trust is not built overnight, especially where there is a pre-existing trust deficit, as is the case with Zimbabwe.

It is important to state that Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa did not begin his term with a trust deficit. On the contrary he started out with copious amounts of international goodwill that was automatically generated by the mere fact of the ouster of Robert Mugabe, his mentor.

Almost “everyone” inside and outside the country wanted him to succeed. No one benefits from a failed state – not even the hated “vapambi vepfumi” (colonial thieves).

But a disputed 2018 election and the violence by the military in the aftermath (witnessed firsthand by international journalists and beamed worldwide by the global media), was the beginning of the loss of goodwill, legitimacy and credibility.

For the first time those unfamiliar with Zimbabwe politics were left wondering whether the hitherto soft-as-wool Presidential glove was all along hiding an iron fist? International investors began asking serious questions about Harare’s commitment to governance, democracy and human rights.

And it’s no easy task to regain ground and momentum once it has been lost. It takes years of consistent and demonstrable commitment to transparency, accountability, good governance and respect for human rights to redeem international goodwill.

What really annoys most Zimbabweans is the knowledge that Rwanda really has no business out-developing their country. We are more educated (maybe too educated for our own good?) and we have more natural resources than tiny Rwanda. At inception we inherited a jewel economy which was the envy of every African country, including Rwanda.

Kagame’s regime, on the other hand, inherited at inception a staggering bill in human, social and economic costs. The genocide of 1994 precipitated a GDP drop of 58% with inflation reaching as high as 64%. A third of Rwanda’s workforce was wiped out, with nearly 75% of school teachers having either died, emigrated or imprisoned for their role in the genocide.

So why is Rwanda, not Zimbabwe, the Singapore of Africa? Why did the Rwandan economy grow by more than 8% in 2018, compared to Zimbabwe’s 4%? Why is a country with no significant mineral deposits now one of the fastest growing economies on the continent? Why has Costco, Starbucks and others expressed confidence and invested in this little country? Why is Kigali, not Harare, one of the cleanest and safest places on the continent?

The answer is not rocket science. Rwanda has purpose-driven leadership. Not power-driven, ideology-driven or money-driven leadership. They are very purposeful, intentional and dead serious about where they want to be in 30 years’ time. And quite aside from Kagame’s ability to connect with corporate Europe and America, his leadership is generally viewed internationally as open, honest, business savvy and corruption intolerant. Perception is everything.

Kagame says corruption is “like weevil.” In Zimbabwe we know something about weevils and gamatox, but all in a very different context – which itself is very revealing of the difference in mindset between Kigali and Harare. Fact is: on corruption the Zimbabwe government has indicated right while turning left.

President Mnangagwa (not Lewis Matutu) simply needs to clean up his government, which has quite a few “mbavha nemagororo” (thieves and robbers).

It’s a joke to expect to garner international investor confidence while populating your government with a bunch unscrupulous African Mafiosos. It’s safe to say you won’t see a fat and corrupt “ever obedient son” in a Kagame administration.

Rwanda’s Vision 2050 is to see the country become an upper middle-income country by 2035 and a high income nation by 2050.

Will Rwanda become one of the new African Lions (in the same economic development category as the Asian Tigers) while Zimbabwe remains the poor church mouse playing catch up?