Fast Company has a lengthy article on efforts by the Kagame government to promote economic development by building strong relationships with the private sector and then leveraging these relationships to create viable market linkages.
These personal relationships are oftentimes based on twin goals: a desire to do good and a desire to do good business. Business leaders want to help the recovery efforts in Rwanda, but they also want to, and need to, provide a good product or service for their customers.
For example, based on its own estimates, Costco is now the second largest buyer of Rwandan coffee. The company's purchases help support the country's thriving coffee industry -- an industry that supports tens of thousands of families in Rwanda. But, Rwandan coffee has to appeal to Costco's customers - otherwise the company wouldn't be able to sustain the relationship.
Costco got involved in Rwanda after CEO Jim Sinegal was invited to visit the country by President Kagame. Kagame argues that traditional development aid "dehumanizes" recipients, robbing people of their dignity. A better model, he believes, is trade. "If that [genocide, violence-ridden] past is never going to happen again, we must grow our economy," Kagame says in the article.
In 2006 President Kagame created an Advisory Council of prominent business and spiritual leaders to provide him with guidance on how best to grow the Rwandan economy. As one council member, Christian Angermayer, says: "Rwanda is a place [where] we can make money and also make a huge difference . . . the best thing we can do is not to give charity, but to treat it as a normal economy." This is a well-traveled path to growing an economy -- hopefully one that works as well for Rwanda as it has in other, more developed countries.
HT: Tyler Cowen
President Kagame discusses Rwanda's strategy at an investment conference in Boston
(Photo: Ben Stone, Sept. 2008)