Author: Oscar Kimanuka
Title: Sub-Saharan Africa’s Development Challenges
A case study of Rwanda’s post genocide experience
Publishers: Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Reviewed by: Ali Balunywa, a Media Consultant; Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Oscar Kimanuka has been until recently, the head of ORINFOR, Rwanda’s National Bureau of Information and Broadcasting and before that the speechwriter for Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame. He has also written extensively on development issues on Rwanda and Africa in different news articles
His 176 page hardcover book is written in a formal academic style. The approach can be easily mistaken for a thesis or dissertation. There is a list of abbreviations and acronyms at the very beginning of the book and at the end an appendix, explanation of notes within the text, references and an index.
The aim of the author in writing this book is to share a perspective on Africa’s development challenges in general and Rwanda’s unique post genocide experiences in particular. It offers lessons in post conflict management and it is written mainly for policy makers
The literature reviewed for his book focuses on secondary sources since it publishes material publically available like newspaper articles and policy statements.
The book examines the challenges facing development in sub-Saharan Africa today and an insight of Rwanda’s post genocide experience. It mainly concentrates on the reforms carried out by Sub-Saharan countries in their bid to develop their economies. He mentions the common reform initiatives as being decentralization, privatization, public sector reforms, performance based contracts and rapid results initiatives.
The book is divided into 6 chapters. The first chapter is the introduction where Oscar examines the background and origins to the Sub-Saharan development challenges, the Rwandan experience objectives and the conceptual and theoretical framework of the study.
The next chapter covers public sector reform programs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Reforms of the 80s and 90s are brought in the limelight because they did not achieve a lot in most countries. The policies were imposed by the donors and provided no scope for ownership by domestic leaders and people.
However, he mentions Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda as countries, which undertook reforms successfully. And as for Kenya, the post election violence reversed all its earlier achievements. A special
mention of Malawi was made because it was stable
from independence at the cost of individual freedoms. With a more democratic leadership, reforms are now being carried out.
To explain failures in the French speaking West African countries, he quotes Davidson (2001) who analyzed the economic and institutional reforms in West Africa and established that economic performance measured by per capita income was not encouraging despite the far reaching reforms like privatization, liberalization and regional integration.
The 3rd chapter dwells on reforms in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. The chapter’s preamble is a quotation from Gen Romeo Dallaire’s 2003 book;
“...betrayal, failure, naiveté, indifference, genocide, war, inflammatory evil…”
capturing what happened during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Oscar introduces ‘Vision 2020’ as the framework the government of Rwanda put forward to transform the country from an agricultural based economy to an information rich, knowledge based society and economy within the next 20 years. One key objective is to turn the country into an ICT centre of excellence in the region.
The book looks at the historical perspective of Rwanda from the creation of artificial divisions by the colonialists – Belgium – by rewarding injustices against the Batutsi. Thereafter, wars, floods, landlessness and famine became constant features in post independence Rwanda.
The chapter elaborates on how the economy of Rwanda has evolved since the colonial times up to now. Emphasis is given to the present day reforms and the results that are all too clear to be seen. The reforms have focused on supporting facilitation of creation of wealth and they are result oriented. They also envisage a stable, efficient, effective, impartial and transparent public service responsive to the views of the people.
Oscar keeps on hinting at how the Rwanda experience should be duplicated elsewhere in post conflict situations. He is confident that Rwanda is on the right path and that hers is an example that can be replicated elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The next two chapters of the book give us an insight on the role of ICT in the process of reforming the public sector and in Rwanda’s development. It is envisioned that in 8 years, Rwanda will become the focal point of ICT in Africa to be the silicon valley of Africa. Already all cabinet meetings are paperless. All the Ministers work from their laptops during the meetings.
The book is easy to read and to follow. The beginning is somehow difficult because a reader tries to fall into the rhythm of the author. After a few pages it becomes quite interesting. However, for a non-Rwandan, the use of abbreviations is irritating, as you have to continuously refer to the abbreviations page. In Rwanda, abbreviations are widely.
The last chapter tries to find out what can be done to end the endemic corruption that is rife in Africa. African countries are enacting anti corruption laws, establishing Ombudsman offices and there is also the African Peer Review Mechanism, which presents a unique opportunity for self-monitoring by African countries.
The author falls in the usual trap of blaming the origins of the economic crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa on slave trade and colonialism without mentioning corruption and bad governance that has been rampant on the continent.
The book is highly recommended for any one interested in economic development and it will be a good textbook for students of advanced contemporary economics of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a challenge to African academics and institutions of higher learning whose role Oscar has assumed.
Photo above: The author, Oscar Kimanuka