Business reform superstar

A business area in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo by: Dylan Walter | CC BY

The World Bank had a surprising bit of news when it came out with Doing Business 2010. For the first time, a sub-Saharan country topped the chart of leading business reformers worldwide.

That country is Rwanda, known in the mid-1990s for an ethnic war that decimated 800,000. Since then, the country has rebuilt its economy and adopted a long-term development road map called Vision 2020.

Rwanda’s rise as one of the world’s top business reformers started in 2007. That’s when President Paul Kagame created a task force within the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency to improve the country’s business climate.

The Doing Business Unit commenced work in December that year with aid from the World Bank. Three years later, Rwanda ranked as the world’s top reformer of business regulation.

“We are reforming not because there is a Doing Business report but the report itself is a yardstick to measure how we compare with regards what is happening elsewhere,” Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry Monique Nsanzabaganwa told local daily The New Times in December 2010. “We always aim to put our ambitions higher.”

As a result of its reforms, starting a business in Rwanda now usually takes only three days and two procedures. Those indicators best the averages in sub-Saharan Africa (45.2 days and 8.9 procedures) and in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries (13.8 days and 5.6 procedures).

Its commitment to reforms, along with its anti-graft drive, has made Rwanda a darling of international donors. The Millennium Challenge Corp. signed, for instance, a threshold program in 2008 that’s designed to strengthen civil society and government accountability. The United Kingdom has continued development aid even as it cut funding to several other countries and institutions.

Learn more about donor activities in Rwanda (for Devex executive members only).

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.

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