Saturday, May 9, 2009

An African Perspective on Economic Development

From an op/ed in Friday's Financial Times by Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda ("Africa has to find its own road to prosperity"):

[A]s I tell our people, nobody owes Rwandans anything. Why should anyone in Rwanda feel comfortable that taxpayers in other countries are contributing money for our well­being or development? Rwanda is a nation with high goals and a sense of purpose. We are attempting to increase our gross domestic product by seven times over a generation, which increases per capita incomes fourfold. This will create the basis for further innovation and foster trust, civic-mindedness and tolerance, strengthening our society.


Entrepreneurship is the surest way for a nation to meet these goals. Government activities should focus on supporting entrepreneurship not just to meet these new goals, but because it unlocks people’s minds, fosters innovation and enables people to exercise their talents. If people are shielded from the forces of competition, it is like saying they are disabled.

Entrepreneurship gives people the feeling that they are valued and have meaning, that they are as capable, as competent and as gifted as anyone else.

The rest of Mr. Kagame's column is worth reading. In it, he refers to the ideas of an economist we've mentioned here before, Dambisa Moyo.

A quick check of Wikipedia suggests that Kagame had a long, eventful (and somewhat controversial) military career before entering politics. This year, Kagame was included in Time Magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. His entry was authored by the mega church pastor Rick Warren, who wrote (in part),

Kagame's leadership has a number of uncommon characteristics. One is his willingness to listen to and learn from those who oppose him. When journalist Stephen Kinzer was writing a biography of Kagame, the President gave him a list of his critics and suggested that Kinzer could discover what he was really like by interviewing them. Only a humble yet confident leader would do that. Then there is Kagame's zero tolerance for corruption. Rwanda is one of the few countries where I've never been asked for a bribe. Any government worker caught engaging in corruption is publicly exposed and dealt with. That is a model for the entire country — and the rest of the world too.

The photo above, of President Kagame shaking hands with President Bush in the White House in 2006, is from Wikipedia.

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