If you only think of genocide when you hear the name "Rwanda,"
it's time to think again.
is moving forward, fervently set on rebranding itself into one of Africa's most
investment-friendly havens. And it appears
to have some of America's most recognizable names in business in its corner. A just-published
article in Fast Company counts
the CEOs of Starbucks and Costco as two of the Rwanda's most influential supporters,
along with the likes of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former British PM Tony Blair, and
Pastor Rick Warren of "Purpose-Driven" fame. All seem to praise the Rwandan
government -- and especially President Paul Kagame -- for being serious about
making the country's business climate as streamlined and free of bureaucratic
hassles as possible, which is certainly an anomaly in much of the developing world. (Registering a business in Rwanda apparently takes
less than 48 hours.)
An article in Fortune
CEOs love Rwanda" offers this money quote from Chicago financier Dan Cooper
(who is credited with introducing Kagame to Costco CEO Jim Sinegal):
We came away saying, this is the most undervalued ‘stock' on
the continent and maybe in the world.
Here's an African nation that's reaching out, not to governments so
much, but to corporate America. They
want to work. They want U.S. business to
bring innovation to their country."
But is this too good to be true? The country's new model of economic development
is an interesting one; it's almost as if Kagame has torn a page out of Beijing's
handbook. While Kagame
can be credited with cracking down hard on government corruption and
creating a competent administration in the country's capital of Kigali, there's
always the problem of restricted political rights and civil liberties, which
critics of the regime never fail to point out. The issue is certainly important, especially given Rwanda's long history
of political violence.
But that said, the country's clearly moving forward. And apparently, the business world isn't the only
one taking notice. Last year, the United
States signed a bilateral
investment treaty with Rwanda -- the first such treaty signed between the
U.S. and any Sub-Saharan African country in almost a decade.
Fifteen years after genocide, this is Rwanda rising.
Hat tip: Africamusings
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images