Rwanda is setting the stage in driving its own development, starting with the launch Thursday (Aug. 23) of the country’s national solidarity fund.
The Agaciro Development Fund will pull together voluntary contributions from Rwandan citizens, including private companies and those living abroad. It will be used to finance key national projects under the country’s Vision2020.
The government is tapping the latest technology for the initiative, allowing contributions to be made via SMS or online using a credit or debit card. Those who opt for more formal transactions can send their donations to The National Bank of Rwanda, the Bank of Kigali and the Banque Populaire.
All contributions will be regarded as “gifts to the fund” and should not be taken as “shares.” But up to 1 percent of companies’ annual turnover will be tax deductible, according to the fund’s concept note.
At present, there are no limits to how much an individual or a corporation can contribute.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning will be managing the fund — at least initially. Citizen trustees will take over the management and distribution of the fund once the ministry has established the fund’s “legal and constitutional framework.”
Many suspect the fund is the country’s response to a series of donor budget suspensions and delays. But Minister of Finance and Economic Planning John Rwangombwa said it should not be “thought of as a counter reaction to aid.”
“While Rwanda has always viewed its goal to become aid independent, we have always valued the partnership that we have shared with many of our donors,” he said in a press release. The fund, however, is meant to improve the country’s “financial autonomy.”
Many Rwandans, including the country’s foreign affairs minister, reacted rather strongly to donors’ aid suspensions. Some have called on Rwanda to work harder to get off foreign aid.
The fund will be a “permanent” fixture in Rwanda that is meant to complement — not replace — the government’s financial resources. An Annual Agaciro Week will be held every first week of July to renew interest and mobilize resources for the fund as well as showcase achievements made so far. An external auditor will review the fund, the results of which will be “made public.”
Following the launch, which will be led by President Paul Kagame, the fund will be introduced in every district in Rwanda in the next two weeks.
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.