Rwanda: The Corruption Free Zone of Africa

Dr. Chika Ezeanya
By Dr. Chika Ezeanya

“You are Nigerian? Aaaah you will love it more in my country than here” my Ugandan co-worker enthusiastically advised upon my arrival in Rwanda, to work on a donor funded project.
I was intrigued by his comment, so I prodded.

“Really? Why so?”

“I have worked in your country and the system is very much similar to what we have in Uganda. Things work as they should. There are no bottlenecks; you get what you want, how and when you want it.”

Is he talking of another Nigeria, or the very land of my birth and nurture? He must be implying the opposite in a subtle manner, I concluded. 

“You are very funny,” I courteously offered in response.

Hurt at the fun being made of my admittedly beleaguered pedigree, I was eager to change the topic to the project we were both hired to work on.

“My sister,” he continued before I could interject; “I have been here in Rwanda for 2 years, and I cannot tell you how much I want to return to my country. I am tired of all the processes,  rules and regulations that abound here. It is too much. Are we not in Africa?”

“Are you really serious?” I asked. Something is being said in sincerity here.

“In Uganda, you have your money, you get what you want exactly the way you want it and at the exact time you need it. I am used to that life. Here, no matter how much you have or even who you know, you must follow some annoying rules and unnecessary regulations. The system is too rigid. I don’t know how they survive here.” He complained bitterly, throwing both hands open in visible agitation.

“Since this is a long term project, I would have moved my family here, but I cannot endure this kind of regimentation for long. Uganda is my country, any time, any day,” he said, as smiles of endearment brightened his countenance.

I was only a few days old in Rwanda and did not really understand him. Now, I have stayed long enough, and traversed the system deeply enough for my colleague’s words to make sense.
You cannot bribe or influence your way through any system, organization or institution in Rwanda. It is that plain and simple.

My first shock, apart from the extreme cleanliness and orderliness of the city of Kigali, (see my article A Tale of Two Black Cities http://allafrica.com/stories/201108040056.html) was when I had cause to visit the immigration office to clear some outstanding documentation issues.

I must shamefully admit that coming from the background of my beloved country Nigeria, I prepared myself well for the journey. I pre-packaged enough cash in my bag – neatly folded in a way to conveniently change hands discreetly - not because there was anything illegal about my business, not at all. It is common knowledge in several sub-Saharan African countries that even the most legitimate transaction has a high probability of being stalled by an official who smiles at you, expecting you to return the smile in cash.

I informed my office that I was going to the immigration office for the day. The last time I renewed my passport in Abuja, Nigeria (2009), it was a whole day’s work. I had to wait outside with several others for several hours, while people who came much later, but knew how to play the system were quickly attended to.

I arrived the immigration office at Kacyiru, Kigali and could not believe my sight. First, the electronic customer service at the entrance gave me a tally that showed I was number 5 in line. Incredible. I got up and went to the very polite, lone and unarmed security officer at the door. I must be in the wrong office; where is the queue? Where are the customs officers loitering around the area soliciting for “customers” to assist in processing their immigration documents? Where are the touts, the peddlers of passport holders, passport photos and even visas? Where are the numerous roadside hawkers making brisk sales of soda, bread and sundry “gourmet” appetizers, entrees, and desserts to frustrated and fatigued patrons? Where is everybody?

“You are in the right office, madam” the officer assured me with a smile.

It was my turn already. I sat down to be attended by an amiable young lady who took her time to listen to my challenges, taking notes, entering data into the computer in front of her, engaging me in the most respectful conversation about my stay, so far, in Rwanda. In less than ten minutes after my arrival, I was handed a sheet of paper with clearly spelt out instructions on how to address my situation.

“Thank you very much, madam. Please do not hesitate to contact this office should you encounter problems following the instructions given.”

I was stunned. The last time I received such impeccable service from a public institution was earlier in the year when I had to register an organization in Washington D.C. Has the immigration office in Rwanda been privatized? I could not help but inquire of my Rwandan colleagues.

Privatize the immigrations office of a country? They asked, their faces showing signs of reassessing their initial valuation of my intelligence. Forgive me for asking, but unusual sights birth unusual questions. What is going on in this part of Africa?

I was soon to get used to Rwanda. The country where things work as they should, where you are informed of the rules and regulations and it works for you if you follow it. The country where you can register your business online within 24 hours (http://org.rdb.rw/),   without having to engage the expensive services of an attorney who will take weeks, sometimes months to travel to Abuja (in the case of Nigeria)  to bribe his way through the corporate affairs office to get you registered. Stories abound of lawyers who collect money from clients without fulfilling their own side of the bargain. Such appalling scenario is impossible in Rwanda.

Rwanda. The country with steady supply of electricity – admittedly for the electrified areas as there are still challenges with electrifying the mountainous rural parts. For over three months of my stay, I cannot recollect more than three incidences of power failure, with none lasting longer than five minutes.

Electricity is cheaply available and easily accessible in Rwanda. With “Cashpower” equivalent of $15USD  procured by sending a text message to your preferred vendor, a family of six need not worry about electricity for a whole month. There is no cheating or bribing of electricity corporation officials; there is no need for that.

During my last visit to Lagos (two months ago), I had opportunity to visit with a household where I was gleefully informed that electricity bills had not been paid in the past four years.

“We are very lucky to have a guy on our street who works with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). We give him small money to keep us connected through the backdoor.” The head of the household informed me triumphantly.

“What is the need paying all the money when you do not even get to have light?” He continued. “I would rather use the money to keep my generator serviced than give it to some thieves.” He pointed out, stabbing the air with his fingers in a self righteously emphatic manner. 

Working with civil servants on a project in Rwanda was another eye-opening experience for me. Having worked with civil servants in other parts of Africa, I must confess that the commitment of Rwandans is exceptional. 7:00 a.m. is resumption time for all civil servants and the work day ends at 5:00 p.m. Lateness is rare and frowned upon by all. Never for once did the people I had to work with miss out on work for one day, for any reason.

There were no staff coming in to the office to sign-in and leave for home.

People are motivated, interested in their work, forthcoming with ideas, excited about their job, dedicated, and willing to help.

In the Ministry where I worked, I was very much involved in the contract awarding process. The transparency of that process and the unconcerned attitude of the officers involved, in trying to influence the outcome were new to me. With my experience working with civil servants in other parts of Africa, I have learnt to become quite eagle-eyed about  contract awarding processes, which most often than not, devolves into life and death confrontations between vested interests; it is not unusual for threats of witchcraft, voodoo, poisonings and assassinations, to be made openly. But I did not need to worry in this instance; the established system ensures that the most qualified company always gets awarded the contract in Rwanda. 

No country in the world is corrupt free, but Rwanda ought to be ranked among the most “developed” countries in the corruption perceptions index, if there is any sincerity in that exercise. Whatever the case, the fact is that doing business, living and working in Rwanda could be one of the most validating experiences an African can have about the optimistic future of the continent and its people.

Dr. Chika Ezeanya blogs at www.chikaforafrica.wordpress.com

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Povety is not an excuse

I luv ur analysis based on d 2 points; poverty and ethnicity; it has always been used as an excuse in nigeria. We r richer yet much more corrupt. Happy to know that some african countries are trying.

Dear Dr Chika , I am so glad

Dear Dr Chika ,

I am so glad to hear about your experience and your testimony. This article makes me feel proud of my home land -Rwanda.
We are a nation that has a darkness in the past and we have enough experienced violence , corruption and impunity and we know where all those led to our country in the pat 18 years ago. I can say that we are still struggling with corruption matters but i know that we do not tolerate it either.

Picture

You don't need to post your picture for such a serious issue. You are distracting your readers.Is it for a purpose?

Rwanda: The corrupt fre zone

Dr Ezeanya how I wish your article can be read by those rushing and killing each other to 'serve' Nigeria - just for their own personal gains

Biafra would have been worse

You can't confirm that Biafra would have been worse. It was not given light of day. Im not advocating for separation but what did we learn and achieve from the gruelling war after all? Developed countries came out of war for the best but for Nigeria......

@ Anonymous

What is wrong with her putting her picture in her story if she is sure of what she is talking about, even other people do appreciate her for her look infact they thank God with their compliment. so be happy that she look good and don't blame yourself. You are not responsible for your look.

@ Gajurt

@ Gajurt, I think you made a good point thank you very much, to add to that I think the man resign his apponitment when the story came out without claiming it is the work of the opposition. Again i rest my case.

Picture

We really don't need to see your picture to get the point in your article. Please stop posting your picture along with every article that you write.
Please stop this nonsense.

Rwanda from the ruins

Let not forget Rwanda had a war that cleanse it of bad omen: corruption, nepotism, ethnicity and all the other negatives that plagued Africa. Sometimes, I believe, Nigeria will have to go through the ruin to rebuild.

Chika is sure gorgeous! I

Chika is sure gorgeous! I enjoyed her article as much as her write-up. Unlike the other guy who wrote to say her admiration, I can no longer "make a bid". Good luck, baby!!

Biafra would have been worse

Biafra would have been worse than Congo. Thank God it failed.

THE STORY IS TRUE

I wish to reconfirm that the story is true.In 2010 fall, I traveled to Rwanda capital several times from Sweden to execute an EU sponsored project. if u ever have power outage, it is very rare and last very shortly.After my visits to Rwanda, I concluded that the problem of Nigeria with crime and choas cannot be
1. poverty----Rwanda is poorer yet things are working
2. ethnic--there several ethnic groups.The masses of Nigeria also have so much to work on themselves because it is said that there is corruption in Rwandan government yet, bribery by common man is uncommon, throwing garbage on the streets is seen as abnormal behavior, people are very humble and well disciplined. As an expatriate expert, I gained access to govt Institutions and personnel. I had access to Rwanda Development Board- RDB, Rwanda Telecom carrier hose and managers, Kigali Institute of Sceince and Tech, Rwanda National University, King Fiasal Hospital etc etc.
I am sure of my verdict

After reading this article, I

After reading this article, I thought to myself, is this not the same Rwanda that was famous in the news in the 80s and 90s for civil wars, genocides etc? Of course it is. That country was literarily reduced to nothing. However as reported by BBC, there was a firm committment by the leadership and people of Rwanda to rebuild the nation. The result of this committment is the system they are putting in place which this article is about. "Watch this space". Nation building is not magic wand, but a consistent application of the right principles to create working systems. Very soon, Rwanda will become almost like a heaven in Africa. If a country that was reduced to nothing can bounce back like this, are we right to pray for a major war in Nigeria? Rwanda only has tea and coffee as export products. Is it oil wealth(which fuels greed) that has made it impossible for us to develop? Is the oil our curse? Many questions. I rest my case.

@Onlyhim

@Onlyhim: The fact that the Rwanda's youth minister's activities were classed abnormal and castigated should tell you something about the level of uprightness in that country. That youth minister's lifestyle is the average Nigerian politician's lifestyle. Most are actually worse. But nobody considers it abnormal, instead we think they have a right to misbehave. This story is quite inspiring. At least now we can be sure the black skin is not a curse. Because I have been battling with accepting that Nigeria is simply cursed and doomed. This is a ray of hope that if we get determined genuine, honest, purposeful leadership, Nigeria can also change. Kudos to Rwandan leaders and citizens.

Looking at your photo,the

Looking at your photo,the whole story about Rwanda didn't make sense anymore.Chika you're too 'homely' to be a writer.Are u single? please reach me at ceejaymadrid@yahoo.com.
No pun intended,just being honest!

Ceejay,
Madrid.

Corruption Free Rwanda

It is really and trully gratifying to read stories like this coming from our continent - AFRICA. I sincerely hope that the leadership in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and other corruption-laden countries in Africa will see some value in what is happening in Rwanda - A Luta Continua!!!

@Rwanda

You are not wanted in Rwanda! You want to go and pollute the place with your corrupt tendencies abi?

Rwanda here I come..

This is how BIAFRA would have been working had we been fortunate to break free.Oh Biafra, why did you elude us?

cc: ALL NIGERIAN LEADERS

This is a must read for every Nigerian government official. You see, it is actually possible for black people to use their God given faculties for their own good instead of using it against themselves. Nigerian can be good one day when a leader who thinks of the country first is elected the leader. Brother Joe, for all intents and purposes, has no clue.We wish him well and hope he completes his term and gets the heck out of the way while we continue to pray and wait for the messiah that shall lead our country to true independence.

Rwanda

Madam as i read your story i can not help but look at the picture on the right side of your story about this youth sport minister in Rwanda. Then I think of another story in the paper about Rwanda government trying to ban breaking wind in public, then i rest my case.

"Rwanda here I come." Please

"Rwanda here I come." Please stay in your own country and do not export the Nigerian brand of corruption and incompetence to a progressive country.

RWANDA

FOLKS,
PLEASE CHECK OUT (KIST)KIGALI INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND TECH. NO COLLEGE IN 9ja COMPARES!!!

Rwanda or Reminder?

Madam, is this Rwanda of a country in Africa? Is the country inhabited by black Africans? Please wake up from your slumber and get real. I must visit Rwanda very soon to validate your hypothesis. If this is correct, then there is hope in Africa. Nigeria must send our 'legislooters' who always travel to the USA and the UK to learn about legislative work to Rwanda for orientation course on how to even understand the meaning of sanity.
The unfortunate thing is that all these things that people call corruption are normal to an average Nigerian. For instance, it was when I arrived the UK few years ago that I knew Police road-blocks were an aberration.
Anyway, na Jonathan we vote, no be PDP. I dey laugh ooooo.

Where do we find honest leaders?

Nice to know there are counries in Africa where things work. Unfortunately, most Nigerians would always want to look down on Rwandans as 2nd class citizens. Sad, it all bolis down to leadership as it's not magic to make things work. It only requires honest, purposeful and determined leadersship. Where would Nigerians get it???

Rwanda

How do I get to legalise... I am tired of Nigeria! Rwanda here I comeeeee.