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Opinions Sat, 20 Jul 2013

Rwanda - Role Model for Ghana and Africa?

Malfunctioning Democracies

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

17th July 2013

For some time in the past, Rwanda was in the news for the wrong reasons. But there is another untold success story.

I was recently talking to a Ghanaian lady working for UNDP in Lusaka, and she said, ‘You Kwesi Atta, if they blindfolded you and put you on a plane, and dropped you in Kigali, then your blindfold was removed, and you were asked where you were, you would just say Geneva or somewhere in Europe’. I did not doubt this much-travelled Ghanaian international diplomat.

About five years ago, I travelled from Lusaka to Accra via Addis Ababa. When I disembarked from the Ethiopian Airways plane at Accra Airport, I struck conversation with another Ghanaian male traveller who later turned out to be an officer with the Ghana Air Force (GAF).

He told me that he had just arrived from Kigali, and that on our descent into the skyline of Accra, he had found out that we in Ghana are kidding with our development, especially with our road infrastructure in Accra, because of what he had seen in Kigali, which had been in sharp contrast to the slow development in Accra.

I have an office mate in Lusaka who had lived 18 years in London and recently relocated to Lusaka where he comes from. He holds a doctorate and he has travelled widely in Africa for many many years as an inspector of quality standards in universities.

He also told me of how marvelous a place Kigali is, because he had been several times to places like Lilongwe, Accra, Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Entebbe, among others. I do not doubt him. Today, I was watching A DW TV documentary programme on Rwanda , and I was awe-struck by the type of quality structures I saw in Kigali. The place is something totally out of Africa.

The German Construction Company, Strabag, is constructing quality roads in Kigali and parts of Rwanda. The very imposing edifices in Kigali, coupled with the natural scenic beauty of the lush green rolling hilly surroundings, make Kigali look like a paradise or Africa’s hidden pearl.

We must salute President Paul Kagame for his vision for Rwanda. Despite coming out of genocide of 800,000 people, Rwanda is making waves in international circles, and it is fast becoming an investor’s paradise.

Paul Kagame is said to be a dictator, perhaps a benign and benevolent dictator. He is a no-nonsense man who is bent on action-oriented leadership. This is what we need in Ghana in particular and Africa in general. Rawlings did a bit but not to the level of what Paul Kagame is doing in Rwanda.

Empirical research in private industry in America shows that democracy does not work in industry, because if a majority illiterate lead a well-educated minority, we tend to have chaos and very poor results.

It is better for a lion to lead a flock of sheep, than a pride of lions to be led by a sheep! Ghanaians are lions who need a lion with an iron fist or paw to lead them. Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and now Rwanda have shown that benevolent dictatorship and controlled democracy produce great economic results.

We need to revisit our constitution and forget about free-for-all-media democracy in Ghana. Our current style of participatory governance and e-government is fast becoming a recipe for insults, insurrection, chaos and misgovernance.

Perhaps, we can say Rwanda is a small country and they have earned a lot of sympathy from the international community so as to attract billions of dollars in donor aid.

Paul Kagame is said to have infused a lot of discipline in his people, as contractors who fail to perform or deliver deliverables according to pre-agreed deadlines, quality standards and cost limits, are often hounded, arrested, beaten and incarcerated. Of course, the taxpayers' money must be put to good use.

Is that against human rights? No, not in Africa where some contractors are ‘wayo jibiti’(crooks) as they' dabaroo' (dribble) their clients. In Nigeria where I lived from 1981 to 1991, I saw the wonderful and quality road infrastructure and bridges constructed by German contractors such as Strabag and Julius Berger. We need such contractors in Ghana.

Most often, our governments award major contracts to their cronies and dubious local contractors who end up doing sub-standard work, ripping off taxpayers. We should streamline our tender procedures and make them very rigorous, equitable, transparent and efficient to avoid sup-optimal results such as building collapses and poor civil engineering works which often pose as a danger to the public.

I will recommend that we in Ghana should closely study the Rwandan economic development paradigm, and borrow a leaf from Paul Kagame. We should send people to Kigali to go and study Kagame’s excellent model of wooing investors, offering mouth-watering investment concessions, and using primarily ICT to propel the economy.

I hear there is a shortage of skilled professionals in Rwanda as there are great job openings there in their tertiary educational institutions. Perhaps, I should pack bag and baggage and take the next available flight to Kigali.

I will seek advice from my Cousin, Paa Kwesi Mintah in New York. Of course, I know he will not agree to my making another move as he already says I should head home to our hometown in Winneba, where he plans to establish a state of the art university and appoint me the Vice Chancellor, with him as the Chancellor.

Being a patriot, I think I will not refuse his offer. However, on a serious note, we in Ghana are in serious crisis of analysis paralysis, as our democracy has overstepped its boundaries and it has become a free-for-all, with our leadership arrested midstream in post-election court wrangles. It is a scenario of development arrested mid-stream.

Our media has gone haywire and bonkers, or it has run riot, with so many distractions and unnecessary distortions, retorts and allegations, gargantuan lying, creating humungous media kerfuffle and cacophony. Can we have a Paul Kagame in Ghana to stamp his authority on this bedlam, which some people perceive as true democracy?

Is our political landscape descending into a morass and intractable quagmire as in Egypt? Our socio-polico-economic situation is very pathetic. We need strong leadership that can deal with media liars and political gymnasts who spew garbage and tell tall lies at every turn.

I recommend we send a strong parliamentary delegation to Rwanda to go and understudy their success story. Those troublemakers who are agitating mayhem in Ghana should be shown the video of Hotel Rwanda, to see the horrors of war and genocide, and jealously guard against vituperative and unpeaceful utterances.

Contact: kwesiattasakyi449@gmail.com
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta