Big Gamble in Rwanda

Stephen Kinzer in the New York Review of Books:

Image1Many outsiders believe that no other poor country is embarked on such a promising campaign to improve itself, and are thrilled with what President Kagame is doing. Others, however, are deeply skeptical. On a continent where development efforts have failed so spectacularly for so long, and where vast multitudes live in seemingly hopeless poverty, Rwanda’s contradictions embody a great conundrum.

With a dense population and few natural resources, Rwanda must rely on human development if it is to prosper. Kagame and other government leaders looked to top-down Asian models, especially Singapore and China, as they designed their ambitious anti-poverty plan. It rests first of all on security. The government keeps close watch on people it considers suspicious, limits their access to big towns, and periodically picks up street children and requires them either to return to their villages or accept vocational training in courses sponsored by the Red Cross. As a result of these and other measures, Kigali is probably the safest city in Africa today, and Rwanda one of the safest countries in the world. That makes foreign investors and entrepreneurs confident about moving to Rwanda. So many have arrived that this year an international school opened for their children.

More here.