Rwanda to give Mauritius a run for investors’ money
A business incubation centre being launched by the Rwanda Development Board in Kigali to promote small and medium enterprises (Source: http://www.newtimes.co.rw)
At the Africa Entrepreneurship Summit held this morning in Mauritius, even as government representatives argued hotly with private players over the scope of the public sectors’ responsibilities towards entrepreneurs, one consensus emerged: Rwanda is the hottest destination for hot money! The African Leadership Network event sponsored by the Omidyar Network witnessed around 170 delegates — a motley assortment of financial experts, angel investors, government representatives and entrepreneurs – giving their thumbs-up to this dark horse as the next bet for Africa’s investment gateway. Mauritius and South Africa, which have so far regarded these honours as a rolling trophy to be shared between them, had better watch out!
Sridhar Nagarajan, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank (Mauritius), said, “Mauritius would do well to heed this event as a wake-up call and start regarding Rwanda as a tangible threat to its status as a gateway between Africa and Asia.”
Rwanda, a Central and East African country, is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This land-locked nation, so far considered a hot potato because of the fresh memories of the 1994 genocide that claimed over 500,000 lives, is now claiming its rightful place as the hot economy in the African continent. Ranked third out of all African countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Competitiveness Index for 2013-14, Rwanda has managed a decent rank of 66 overall out of 148 countries in what is easily the most reliable report for ease of doing business world-wide.
Nagarajan added, “Rwanda may be a land-locked nation and may not enjoy Mauritius’ advantage of being part of the African continent and yet situated in a uniquely, sheltered location. However, is fast gaining the enviable reputation of being completely corruption-free and as far as ease of doing business is concerned, there are many champions of it among government representatives, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike.”
Indeed, the East African powerhouse’s status as a corruption-free and hassle-free economy for doing business gets it the vote from both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Alpesh Patel, founder and CEO of African technological start-up Mi-Fone, said, “Rwanda has zero corruption. Also, as an entrepreneur, I have no time to waste on endless paperwork, and that’s where Rwanda’s quick turnaround of preliminaries like registration and account opening has really won me over.”
Hitesh Mehta, general partner, Acacia Capital Partners and an active venture capitalist, said, “I went there recently on a business trip and as soon as you get off the flight and enter the airport, there it is: a sign which actually mentions a number you can call to log complaints against corruption. Of course, just a sign post with a number will not spell an end to corruption but it is ultimately the signal that the country is sending out that counts – if corruption is your game, you are better off taking the next flight out!”
However, while it has a lot going for it, Rwanda also has a long way to go before it can catch up with Mauritius and South Africa – both of which score over the East African nation in the WEF rankings with their state-of-the-art infrastructure and a highly educated and skilled workforce. But, with a supportive leadership at the helm, it may not be long before it gives its more prosperous African cousins a run for their money.