Rwanda, the next Singapore?

Author:Zongying, He

Cynics often take "the next Singapore" to connote the perceived illiberal political regimes of both countries. He Zongying has an alternative interpretation.

In the 2015 press freedom index, Singapore was ranked at 153 out of 180 countries, and just a few places above Rwanda at 161. Yet, the bigger story here is that Singapore is a nation that has made it from third world to first in a little under a generation.

2014 International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates put Singapore in third place in terms of gross domestic product per capita in a worldwide ranking.

So how close is Rwanda getting?

To be sure, there are numerous parallels between Singapore in the 1960s and the Rwanda that emerged at the turn of the century and the policy decisions they have taken since then.

While Rwanda struggled to emerge from the ruins of the 1994 genocide, Singapore in the 1960s was also undergoing its own struggles, experiencing racial riots and strife, albeit to a different degree.

The result though is that both had to be culturally sensitive and that had a tremendous effect on the crafting of subsequent policies. Adopting English as an official language required political will for both countries. English was the language of Singapore's former colonial masters at a time where regard for them was at an all-time low due to the destruction of their infallible image after the second world war.

The adoption of English by Rwanda was radical considering their numerous years as a francophone country. Both realised though that it was the dominant business language of the times, and pursued it nonetheless.

The implementing of Umuganda, a form of community work, in Rwanda also served to institute a sense of shared responsibility and allowed the nation to heal its divisions with amnesty reintegration programmes. Singapore had likewise placed an emphasis on racial integration by championing meritocracy over race-based politics, and implementing quotas in its public housing projects to ensure that there would not be separate cultural clusters.

Investing in infrastructure

Just as Singapore focused on building its manufacturing industry, Kigali has placed its bets on the manufacturing of today--information technology. A pertinent example is how the government laid out 2,300km of fibre optic cables across the country in 2011, meant as the infrastructural bedrock upon which it would attract the growth of foreign investments and the e-commerce industry.

Rwanda also invested in...

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