How Rwanda is Becoming the Singapore of Africa

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Stream. Watch over 2,000 documentaries for free for
30 days by signing up at the link in the description. Africa is often viewed quite poorly on the
world stage. The continent holds plenty of violent, corrupt,
and unstable nations and the majority of world’s least developed countries, but Africa is big. There are 54 countries there and not all fall
into the generalizations of the continent as a whole. Perhaps most notably, Rwanda. One of the easiest ways to compare countries
is through their indicators and Rwanda’s are impressive. For every 100,000 residents, Rwanda has, on
average, only 2.5 murders per year. As a point of comparison, that’s lower than
India’s 3.2 or the United States’ 5.4. It’s even more impressive when looking at
the kind of neighborhood Rwanda is in. Uganda has 11.5, Tanzania has 7, Burundi has
6, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has 13.6 murders per 100,000. In addition, Rwanda is ranked as the 48th
least corrupt country in the world. That’s not perfect, but on the continent,
only Botswana, a far richer country, ranks higher. The country also has a 67 year life expectancy,
tied for forth best in Africa, and only slightly below the world average. That 67 year number is believable, but what’s
truly unbelievable is that 25 years ago, the average Rwandan had a life expectancy of 28
years. 25 years ago, Rwanda was in the midst of one
of the most horrific genocides in history. In only 100 days, 800,000 Rwandans were murdered
in the midst of this ethnic conflict. The group primarily targeted, the Tutsi, saw
the loss of about 75% of its population. With time, though, the country emerged from
the other end, peace prevailed, and its indicators began their steady climb upwards to where
they are today. It is now the 15th fastest growing economy
in the world as its government has set out a clearly defined mission—they want to become
the Singapore of Africa. To understand what this means, though, you
have to understand what Singapore is. It’s easy to forget that east Asia was not
the highly developed, economically powerful place it is today 100 years ago. Many refer to the 1800’s as Britain’s
century, the 1900’s as America’s century, and the 2000’s as Asia’s century. It’s thought that we are currently in the
century where Asia will prevail and one of the countries driving that is Singapore. Singapore sits at the top of all the indicators—not
just for Asia, but the world. It’s the eighth safest, third richest, third
least corrupt, third longest living country in the world. 60 years ago, in 1960’s, Singapore’s economy
had a size of about $700 million. Today that number is $320 billion. In the last ten years alone its GDP has doubled. It went from a definitively third-world country
to a definitively first-world country in less than a lifetime. The country is intensely focused on being
the business hub for Asia. Of the world’s 20 largest companies, 15
have operations in Singapore. It’s tough to look at the results of Singapore’s
economic development without being impressed. They have done the nearly impossible. Some of the ways Singapore has achieved this
growth, though, has met some criticism. The way Singapore is run politically has been
described as, “paternalistic.” It’s not quite authoritarian, but some freedoms
are lacking. One of the few indicators that Singapore does
rank at the top of is the Democracy Index. It scores a 6.4 out of 10 which ranks it at
66th in the world and categorizes it as a, “flawed democracy.” The elements of this paternalism range from
small things like the country’s ban on chewing gum for cleanliness purposes to big things
like the limitations on freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. To this, proponents would say, “look at
the results.” The country has succeeded economically based
off the trade that seemingly more and more countries are embracing, “liberty for prosperity.” Rwanda has been paying attention. Paul Kagame, its president, declared that
mission to turn the country into, “the Singapore of Africa,” and in many ways, it’s already
well on its way. Arguing that Rwanda is authoritarian is easy. On the same democracy indicator where Singapore
is categorized as a, “flawed democracy,” Rwanda earns a score of 3.4 out of 10 and
the categorization of, “authoritarian.” Paul Kagame was first elected in 2003, then
again in 2010, then again in 2017 with 98.8% of the vote. The US Department of State, though, described
that third election as having some, “irregularities.” That also came after a constitutional amendment
lifting term limits to let Kagame take power again. He is clearly well-liked and impressive. He began his career in the military, played
a part in toppling the oppressive governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC, and has been
described as, “perhaps the most successful general alive.” He is by all accounts a military genius and
since his fighting days he has risen Rwanda from chaos into peace and prosperity but as
a political leader, he himself is still oppressive. Just like Singapore, there are severe limitations
on the freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. There are even accusations of Kagame supporting
or arranging the assassination of his political opponents. Looking at the ends, though, there are clearly
more parallels with Singapore. Singapore’s success as a business hub is
can be attributed to three factors: geographic centrality, political stability, and ease
of doing business. As part of Kagame’s mission, Rwanda is working
to improve these same three factors. For the first factor, Singapore’s sits as
a central point in the world. Within an eight hour flight one can get to
the major business hubs of the middle east in the UAE and Qatar, all of India, all of
east Asia’s major business hubs, and all of Australia. Meanwhile, Rwanda sits only 600 miles or 950
kilometers from the geographic center of Africa. It is about as central as you can get on the
enormous continent. For both countries, though, geographic centrality
means nothing unless you can actually get to them. One of Singapore’s largest companies is
Singapore airlines—often considered one of the best if not the best airline in the
world. Thanks to this airline, one can get from Singapore
to five different continents in a matter of hours. It’s easy to underestimate the importance
of having a globally competitive airline to establish a city as a business hub. It’s safe to say that other business hubs,
such as Dubai and Doha, would not be as influential as they are today without their airlines. Rwanda has clearly noticed this. Their national airline, Rwandair, which is
government owned, has grown from a tiny operation with a few regional jets to a significant,
intercontinental airline operating brand new planes. They now fly all around Africa, to Dubai,
Brussels, and London and have even announced plans to start one-stop service to both Guangzhou,
China and New York. While the airline is not yet nearly at the
level of some larger players on the continent like Ethiopian Airlines and South Africa Airways,
it’s serving its job effectively of connecting Rwanda to the world. The second factor to Singapore’s economic
success is political stability. The World Bank rates countries in terms of,
“political stability and absence of violence and terrorism,” and for this, Singapore,
unsurprisingly, comes up in the 99th percentile—better than almost any country in the world. This is a big reason why a CEO might choose
to set up their Asian hub in Singapore over Hong Kong, for example, which only scores
in the 75th percentile for political stability and is trending downwards. They want to operate in a place that they
know won’t change quickly on a political level since there are inherent costs involved
with a changing external environment. Rwanda sits at the 48th percentile for this
political stability indicator, well in the middle of the pack. This isn’t phenomenal but, compared to the
sub-Saharan average of 31, it’s doing alright. It’s a contentious issue whether elements
of authoritarianism promote or impede political stability. In Rwanda’s case, with so few years under
the current form of government, it’s tough to know if the country really is stable or
not. Rwanda is now, by many accounts, a police
state. There are random checkpoints all around the
country and strict security at most buildings in Kigali, the capital. Kigali is now one of the cleanest cities in
Africa, let alone the world, partially due to a ban on single-use plastics and plastic
bags but also because all able-bodied members of the population are required to participate
in a community cleaning day on the last Saturday of each month. According to one report, there’s even widespread
unlawful detention of what are described as, “undesirables,” on the streets. The test of whether this country is truly
stable or rather in a state of temporary fear-based obedience might not have yet come. Rwanda has not experienced a transition of
power since 2000 and nobody really knows whether the country can continue on the right path
after Kagame leaves. He himself even said that if he had not groomed
a successor by 2017, “It means that I have not created capacity for a post-me Rwanda. I see this as a personal failure.” It’s now well past 2017 and Kagame is still
in power with no signs of leaving. Regardless of the reasons, though, for Rwanda’s
current political stability, it’s sure that businesses like it. It’s one of the top factors they look at
when deciding which countries to operate in. The third factor that led to Singapore’s
business success, ease of doing business, is perhaps the most important one and it’s
also the one at which Rwanda most excels. This is a broad factor but it’s one that
the World Banks tracks with a well known indicator—the Ease of Doing Business Index. This looks at ten factors—ease of starting
a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property,
getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing
contracts, and resolving insolvency. Singapore ranks as number two in the world
behind New Zealand and is followed up by Denmark, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Rwanda, meanwhile, scores as the 29th. This is an impressive score by itself but
it is incredibly impressive when considering how the rest of the continent ranks up. Rwanda is by far the highest ranked among
mainland African nations. The nearest trailing African nation is Morocco
at number sixty and plenty of highly developed countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland,
and Japan rank lower than Rwanda. To achieve this Rwanda has made plenty of
economic and legislative reforms to foster the business-friendly environment. They’ve also been focusing on building both
soft and hard infrastructure. The government, in collaboration with private
investors, built an enormous $300 million convention center along with a five star Radisson
Blu hotel to attract the convention market in addition to less flashy infrastructure
projects building roads and airports. Overall, Rwanda is on the hunt for international
investment in the country and so far, that’s paid off. In 2005, $10.5 million were invested from
abroad in Rwanda. In 2017, that number was $293 million. Clearly a lot is working in Rwanda. It’s safe, clean, and growing economically. What more could a country want? Well, there are serious questions from abroad
on whether Rwanda’s growth is ethical, replicable, sustainable, and even real. The way Rwanda has achieved its current stability
and growth have some external observers condemning it. Appearances of Rwanda can also be deceiving. It is still one of the poorest countries in
the world with the average resident earning only $750 a year. Some question whether the country should be
spending so much on its airline, its infrastructure, and its capital when so many in the country
are so poor. Some question whether the country is growing
for its middle and upper class while leaving its rural poor behind. It’s no surprise, though, that many of the
countries neighbors, curbed by violence and poverty, have pondered whether they should
be replicating the ways of Kagame. External observers have given mixed answers
to that question. Some believe that the the current authoritarian
policies will let dissent bottle up and eventually explode. They worry that the country will erupt into
violence again. Some say that the current regime is solely
focused on making things seem like they’re improving through climbing up the indicators
without making real, rational change. There are even some accusations that Rwandan
GDP growth figures might be inflated or otherwise manipulated. It’s sure that Rwanda has been growing enormously,
but is it really this much? There is no one recipe for economic growth. The fact that the United States became the
superpower of the 20th century and China is becoming the superpower of the 21st century
proves that more than anything. Democratic states grow and autocratic states
grow—they might grow in different ways, but there are success stories on both ends
of the spectrum. What external observers have so much trouble
answering is the means to the end question. Should Rwanda’s growth be lauded given how
it is achieved? Can you tolerate some bad in exchange for
much good? In the end, Rwanda is the country of Rwandans
and they are the only ones that matter with these questions. If Rwanda is truly working for all Rwandan’s,
then Rwanda is working. There are a lot of, “ifs,” but if Rwanda’s
growth is sustainable and if Rwanda’s politics are stable and if Rwanda’s investments pay
off and if businesses pay attention to Rwanda, there is a very good chance that the country
is well on it’s way to becoming the Singapore of Africa. If you’re interesting in learning more about
Singapore, there’s a fascinating documentary on CuriosityStream about how the country is
dealing with the problem of having a huge, growing, and aging population in its tiny
borders. It’s a great watch and one of more than
2,000 documentaries that you can watch on CuriosityStream. With them, you can watch these docs on almost
every platform: Roku, Android, iOS, Chromecast, Apple TV, desktop, and plenty more. If you like Wendover Productions, you’re
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About the author


  1. I know that this topic, like most geopolitics topics, has more potential than most to be contentious so I think it's extra important for you to know where the information comes from. Nothing said in this video is new and you can find all the sources at this link:

    Normally the sources go the description but there were too many this time to fit. 

    One small note, at 11:14 it seems like some of the footage we used was mislabeled so these two clips are not actually of Rwanda. My apologies for that slip-up.

    As a policy, if there's anything more that I feel needs correcting or clarifying I'll update this top comment to include it.

  2. It seems like Rwanda is using the classic "If we build it, they will come" technique. I really hope it works, it'd solve their poverty problems, but I hope the lack of money among its people and surrounding African nations won't make businesses turn away like "there's little money to be made here." If all goes well they could bring riches and power to Rwanda and even its neighbors i bet

  3. President of Ruanda, Paul Kagame: Net worth; $500million. This is the problem with all 54 African presidents. Public money ends up in the pockets of the politicians. Half of each African city is a slum.

  4. Idiot. Do you even know what a third world country is? How can Singapore become first world? Please understand the meaning of the words you use

  5. If we can increase life expectancy at the same percentage that Rwanda has been able to do, we'll all reach 150 years old!
    100 will be the new 20.

  6. I think if you have a place where 800,000 people are dying by genocide, then you need a strong-arm military man to clamp things down to stabilize the country before you release the binds. The people were fighting each other, so now they are not. That's improvement. However authoritarian, at least the place is safe and stable. Next step is education for the people. If Rawanda can provide free education and tech jobs for it's people, then they'll compete on the international stage, attract massive business, then the middle class can rise. Hopefully with that, will release some additional binds, until maybe 100 years from now Rwanda is truly the Singapore of Africa and then they'll have a new problem….immigration…as millions will be flocking to the small country to improve their lives, then you have another battle that will loom and plunge the country back into chaos as the success will be too new to handle the influx of population and this president will be long gone and then civil war will errupt. But hey…enjoy it while it lasts!

    For the record, my statement about neighboring immigration causing a potential Rwanda future problem is NOT consistent with my feelings about US immigration, as they are different countries at different stages with different histories. Sometimes immigration is good (United States, Germany, Brasil, Singapore), and sometimes it's bad.

  7. We say authoritarians are so bad because we hear all the horrendous examples of authoritarians, like Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jon Un, etc. but there is nothing inherently wrong with being authoritarian. If you think about it, many people are authoritarian, an obvious example is your parents because they have to control you at first to discipline you, and your school. Yes there is less freedom with authoritarianism but are we really free right now?

  8. Kagame really loves his nation and make dreams to come through. Such a small country gained economic boom is incredible example for those who rule them African countries for ages and starving its own people

  9. 'some question whether the country should be spending so much on its airline, its infrastructure and its capital when so many in the country are so poor'

    Now tell me how do you prosper your people without building infrastructure first?

  10. Rwanda destroyed and killed everyone that didn't fit in to their vision of their racist goals. Now with no population diversity they have peace in their society.

  11. Many autocracies have fallen in the time the democracies have lived and stayed upright. Authoritarian regimes are unjust, and will always fall in time, as they are fundamentally opposed to themselves, their people. They can placate them with prosperity like China, but for how long?

  12. Ok seriously? Those numbers are incorrect and only some safe space idiot will believe them. First OFCOURSE INDA AND THE UNITED STATES WILL HAVE MORE MURDERS. WE HAVE MORE PEOPLE!!!! second. Do we not remember the Rwanda genocide, third, they may not have as many murders but they surely have alot more VIOLENT crimes, like rape. Rwanda was said to be the rape capital of Africa

  13. 19th century was for Tyrones like UK and more, 20th for fake democracy and 21th control state like China, 21th to 22nd Zionist control state all corner of the world.

  14. Singapore used to be known as authoritarian ruled country with a no nonsense attitudes styles under Prime Minister Mr.Lee Kuan Yew,constantly dishing out medicinal advises,directives and how we should lives and behaves regimen,it wasn’t happily taken at first but eventually their citizens saw his wisdoms,loves and respected him.Now,under Lee Hsien Long,whose more relaxed styles sees troublesome old wounds reappearing.

  15. Since the 1994 Genocide, I suspect there aren't many Tutsi tribesmen left, so Kagame will be in power for the foreseeable future — backed by his Hutu tribesmen.

  16. Nah safest country in africa is wakanda, anyone who says otherwise are liars. The africans are biggest liars, they keep hiding wakanda from the rest of the world.

  17. Rwanda goverment need to come to indonesia and teach those motherfucker how to run government properly. We wont ask for singapore because people here wont like advices from people with small eyes.

  18. I would trade democracy (or at least a part of it) for safety, prosperity and a growing economy.
    Democracy is time-consuming.
    Democracy is not for all countries on earth.
    And that's what people don't get.
    You build the foundations first, then democracy comes as the last stone.

  19. I had always heard Botswana was doing quite well and was very safe. Good to see another African country starting to have success.

  20. This is when you have good leadership who cares about its people and not their pockets. This is also when they do not tolerate corruption.

  21. Don’t be ridiculous Kagame helped worsen the situation in the DRC. That’s why the Congo wars broke out. 5 million people died in that atrocity.

  22. The congo is full of head-chopping militias ->
    It’s not Rwanda’s responsibility! Some agitators here are only blowing hot air.

    Excerpt, page 18:

    The first attack by the Kamuina Nsapu militia on this town [Kasai region] took place on 6 March 2017. Several weeks later, on 13 April 2017, the militia came back in larger numbers. A farmer described how they entered the town:

    “They created a lot of disorder. They started to kill people, they cut off their heads, to burn them in their Tshota [their camp which also doubles as a place of worship]. They targeted the whole population, anyone could be killed. They came with a discourse saying: ‘We are here to protect the population, stay calm.’ But their acts were the contrary.”

  23. God who cares about democracy!!! Look at the west and what a joke it is!! Nothing gets done or approved and all we get is garbage cable news, stagnant wages and poor infrastructure. Check out what the likes of China and what they have built in the last 15 years. They get shit done

  24. China is not a larger super power than the US. Jeez, get your facts right. The US is still the largest economy, has military bases all over the world, once you leave our big cities, you do not enter a 3rd world super improvised nation, and our individual wealth far exceeds China. You have been watching to many YouTube videos and not reading.

  25. I like how you mixed up Latvia 🇱🇻 and Lithuania 🇱🇹 and then proceeded to blur out the Lithuanian flag

  26. Would you rather have poverty and homelessness while being fully democratic or have everyone be in the middle class or rich and have a limited democracy ? Think about it

  27. Are you guys for real? The picture at 11:15 and video at 11:18 is Malaysia…not Rwanda. Where else did you guys insert pics from?

  28. 11:14 to 11:19. That's in Malaysia, even written in the ad on that bus. Sure, some of Malaysian might have same skin tone, but that country is in Asia, just bit north of Singapore. Don't know Malaysia? its the country made famous by 1MDB & Najib Razak.

  29. The black race unfortunately does not posses the necessary traits to build up a nation and keep it like that.History and present times have shown us that in clear light.

  30. I wish that South Africa would do this because the country is an Economic Giant in comparison to most other African countries

  31. We should become aware that modern cities are deserts to nature, and that nature is under deep stress. Human 'winning' is no longer winning but becoming blind arrogance. Great for Rwanda, but Africa's awesome nature will soo suffer for this boom.

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