On the ground in Rwanda


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Edith Jibunoh and I are in Rwanda this week, attending the Third African Ministerial Conference on Financing for Development. The theme of the meeting is ‘climate change financing’. African governments will be discussing the funds they need to adapt to the potentially devastating impacts of climate change in their countries. I will be blogging more on this in coming days…

It’s my first time in Rwanda, the country most well known for the genocide of 1994. Less well known is what Rwandans have achieved in the 15 years since.

Rwanda’s progress has gone at a cracking pace. Economic growth rates have been closer to ten per cent than five per cent for most of that period. The majority of Rwanda’s children now sleep under mosquito nets, and since mid 2006, both deaths and cases of malaria in Rwanda have dropped by two-thirds. The number of people in need of life-saving AIDS treatment who received it rose from one per cent in 2003 to 71 per cent in 2007. The number of kids in school has also rocketed. These are remarkable statistics, and behind them lie countless human triumphs.

Much of this progress has been achieved with the support of aid money from the UK, the US, the EU and others. Aid contributes to over half of the Rwandan budget. There’s little doubt that it’s had a positive impact here. But the smart young entrepreneurial Rwandans I’ve met here so far also want to make clear that while they welcome aid it needs to be delivered in the right way – and it needs to have a built in exit strategy.

President Paul Kagame and his government have asked donors to support Rwanda’s priorities rather than their own. They have insisted that the donors coordinate their efforts better to reduce the profusion of meetings to attend and forms to fill in.

There is a lot for us to learn from the Rwandan story in terms of aid effectiveness. How can aid be improved so that it delivers results and avoids dependency? How do we help foster the entrepreneurial spirit that will ultimately take African countries forward? I look forward to my next few days here!

-Oliver Buston

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