By Justin Harper
The Rwandan economy is performing well, thanks to a strong government and anti-corruption stance, and beating some developed European countries.
Ask any expat about Rwanda and its bloody genocide is likely to feature strongly, rather than the fact it has one of the world’s best performing economies.
Rwanda, like many African nations, suffers from a tarnished reputation prompted by war or civil unrest that took place decades ago. But many of these countries have been quietly rebuilding their economies while opening themselves up to foreign investment and manpower.
Credit card giant Visa recently chose Rwanda to carry out a pilot programme to test its mobile phone banking service. A large multinational company like Visa could have chosen any country in the world, so its decision to pick a small African nation highlights Rwanda’s growing importance.
Gordon Cooper, head of emerging market solutions for Visa, said: “The economy has grown eight per cent every year for the past five years, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It has a stable government and has taken a strong stance against corruption.”
As a result, Rwanda has Africa’s third-best ranking in Transparency International’s annual index of the perception of corruption. It is listed number 50 out of 174 countries, which are ranked from least to most corrupt.
Alongside this, Rwanda has the third-best score in Africa, behind Mauritius and South Africa, on the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings.
While still a long way off Singapore, which is number one on the list, Rwanda’s 52nd place puts it ahead of more developed countries such as Poland and Hungary.
It also has a free health care system that covers about 90 per cent of the population.
Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame says he wants to turn the country into the Singapore of Africa. The tiny island of Singapore managed to rapidly move from third world to first world with few natural resources, and is now one of the world’s richest countries.
As part of its strategy, the tiny African nation wants to reduce its reliance on agriculture and turn itself into a service economy and a conference hub, while attracting global talent.
Eleanor Brown, a British expat who has lived in Africa for eight years and runs her own website expatafrica.net, said the continent is one of the few exciting destinations left on the expat map.
She said: “I really hope that the encouragement of international business, rule of law and lack of corruption continue.”