Lost in the shadows of one black head of state at the UN General Assembly was another, Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Outside UN meetings Kagame received little world attention for a feat reported at the same time world leaders convened in New York: Rwanda has done the most to make itself a business-friendly environment, vaulting from 143rd place to 67th in the World Bank's annual "Doing Business" report. According to the in-depth paper-which measures bureaucratic, financial, and legal hurdles to running a business in 183 countries-"Rwanda is the world's top reformer of business regulation, making it easier to start businesses, register property, protect investors, trade across borders, and access credit"-the first time a sub-Saharan African economy has topped the list (see "Minding Africa," October 10, 2009).
Kagame has led the push for business enterprise in Rwanda post-genocide, claiming that "entrepreneurship is the surest way to development." As a result, now it's easier to do business in Rwanda than in either Italy or Turkey. According to the World Bank report, it takes two procedures and three days in Rwanda to register a business, down from a year ago when it required eight procedures and 14 days. In Italy business registration requires six procedures and 10 days. To obtain a construction permit in Rwanda takes on average 14 steps and 210 days, while in Turkey it requires 25 procedures over 188 days (the U.S. average is 19 steps and 40 days).
Kagame, who attended UN events prior to the U.S. Africa Business Summit in Washington late last month, told a Sept. 21 gathering in New York, "The present day preoccupation in Africa revolves around creating prosperity." He said Africans want to build relations with the West not based on aid dependency but on "mutual respect, trust, and a collaborative outlook."