What needs to be done to keep up with the momentum in 2011 by New Times on 01/01/2011

Starting this year Rwandans will embark on yet another 7 year journey armed with a very ambitious agenda. The agenda is to turn around its economy so that its citizens can enjoy middle income status in exactly ten years from now.

Starting this year, one thing seems to point out that success is attainable. Rwandans are actually done for the next 7 years , with political posturing or even bickering that seems to be consuming the energies of some of her neighbours.

Time for action is now, so the mood seems to be saying in Kigali. Meaning that with political continuity, some of the many economic tasks that policy makers laid in the last 7 years that needs support will, without a doubt be stepped up.

For instance privatization of some of the key enterprises, in which government holds stakes, is a case in point. Beyond the success of the Bralirwa Initial Public Offer(IPO), which stood  as a test case, the privatization programme, starting this year, in which over 20 top Rwandan companies are ripe for this exercise  hold promises of and kick-starting of  the envisaged transformation process.

When 20 companies are sold successfully as was the case with the Bralirwa IPO through the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE), as anticipated, the effects will be wide ranging. Already Bank de Kigali, easily Rwanda’s most successful truly local commercial bank, which is one of the top 20 companies in this list, has been earmarked for sale of government’s 25 percent shareholding to the private sector.

Another area that holds tremendous promises for enabling the transformation of the economy is the telecoms sector. The year 2010 was a very refreshing one for the consumers of the telecoms operators in Rwanda. Very intense competition, unseen previously, led to more than 1.2 million additional Rwandans largely from the bottom of the economic pyramid, being firmly brought into the national telecoms network.

The intense competition in 2010, led to prices plummeting to less than  Rwf 5 per minute, only a fraction of more than Rwf 100 per minute charged by operators less than 2 years ago. The implication is that more Rwandans will be able to make more informed economic decisions starting this year.

If mobile phone penetration is hastened this year in Rwanda , maybe to reach more than 60 percent of the total population, ahead of the anticipated licensing of the fourth national telecoms operator, such a prospect should bring forth the generation of more wealth running into several million of dollars by its citizens.

This prediction is informed by  a  study by the London Business School that  indicates that adding 10 new subscribers per hundred people leads to an increase in the gross domestic product by 0.6 percent points in developing countries.

Within the energy sector, methane gas exploitation   should proceed with added speed. Diversifying and deepening exploitation of the Lake Kivu gas reserves has the potential of transforming, within a short span, Rwanda, from an  energy deficit to energy surplus economy. Such a prospect will boost the transformation agenda in several ways.

Wide ranging reforms within agriculture that were carried out in the last few years in areas such as land consolidation should now  focus on more inputs in the form of  appropriate technology, extension services and access to credit being increasingly made available to the rural citizenry, who now seem more eager to embrace change in order to move out of the poverty trap.

As the new year dawns, Rwandans should consider themselves to be a lucky lot. Rwandans should celebrate the ushering of the new year through reflecting on all  the good things which are happening all around them.

The writer is an editor with The New Times


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