Setting the example


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Quite recently, the five members of the East African Community (EAC) agreed to adopt a single currency, which should go into effect within the next 10 years. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi first came together in 2000 to create a common market and single customs union, modeled after the Eurozone. The aim is to make business a lot easier across East Africa.  If their model is a success, then the entire African Union might follow suit.

When 50+ African countries are watching your every move, setting the example can be quite daunting. After all, success could contribute highly to the continued economic success of Africa (no pressure).

Of course, regional integration is a deeply political process and the implementation of a single customs territory has important political aspects.

However, East-Africans are already thinking of themselves as just that: East Africans. There are rumours that Burundi, like Rwanda, wants to adopt English as their common language in order to assure the Union’s success, and all reports following the numerous meetings between the five EAC leaders are very positive. Having spent a considerable time in all five countries myself, I am convinced that the Union will be a resounding success, even if there are quite a few reported delays at the moment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day after all.  And neither was the Eurozone.

Women rule in Rwanda


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Last week, the ruling party in Rwanda won a resounding victory in their parliamentary elections. This surprised no one. What surprised everyone was that during the last election Rwandan women won a 56% representation in the Lower House and that this number has now leapt to a staggering 64%.

Female politicians are consistently beating their male counterparts in openly-contested seats making Rwanda the world’s only parliament where women form a majority. Women are very much underrepresented in almost every national parliament around the world, so what makes Rwanda different?

1) By law, women in Rwanda must have at least 30% of the seats in government, including local government. This is President Kagame’s brainchild, seeking to end the blatant inequality between the sexes still typical across the whole of Africa.

2) The Rwandan population is 60% female. If you compare this to China, where there will be approximately 30 million more men than women by 2020, it makes sense that the Chinese parliament has less women and that the Rwandan parliament has more.

3) Since 1994, Rwandan women have been at the forefront of rebuilding the nation and are now being rewarded for it.

In a vote of confidence, the US government agreed recently to ratify a new trade pact with Rwanda, without questions asked. Rwandan women are obviously doing something very right.


The market that had bankers at Davos excited this year was Africa


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

This is what Peter Sands, CEO of Standard Chartered, told Reuters at the World Economic Forum last Friday.

Many African politicians attended the Forum, above all to present their nations in a positive light and thus attract more investors.

The heads of state and government from Guinea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mauritius all debated the future of their continent over dinner. The event was called an “Interactive Dinner Session”, and journalists were not allowed in. Only entrepreneurs and investors were. South Africa and Nigeria, the biggest economic powers in Africa south of the Sahara, didn’t feel the need to attend the dinner, but instead focused on promoting agriculture in their respective countries. Feeding Africa seems high on their agenda, following the expected population explosion. Nigeria intends to modernize its agriculture via large-scale investment programmes, knowing that its Human Resources are more important to the country’s future than its oil. The aim is to become self-sufficient and eventually an exporter.

One point where everyone agreed was that if Africa were to invest heavily into infrastructure, it could uplift all people still living in poverty.

Some studies suggest that some $100 billion (74.2 billion euros) would have to be invested each year to achieve real improvement, and African representatives at the Davos forum hoped to raise awareness for the issue. They argued that whoever fails to invest in Africa today, will be sorry tomorrow. And almost all attendees seemed to agree with them.

Finally, the European Central Bank president Mario Draghi ended the Forum by stating that “positive contagion” on financial markets was not yet feeding into the economy at large, but that the eurozone should see recovery in the second half of the year.

Good news all round…