The World Bank last week released its “Ease of Doing Business” report. In the East African region, Rwanda yet again trumped neighbours by ranking number 41 globally (a 15 places jump from last year’s ranking). Kenya followed closely in 80th position, having jumped 12 places from its previous ranking. Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi followed in positions 122, 137 and 164 respectively.
But there’s more to the rankings.
Since the start of the rankings 15 years ago, Rwanda has, at 52, implemented the most reforms in sub-Saharan Africa. Neighboring Kenya comes second here also having implemented 32 reforms.
— World Bank (@WorldBank) November 1, 2017
So consistently, for the past 15 years, Rwanda has tinkered with and hacked this Ease of Doing Business index stuff…in the process becoming a global reform leader. But Rwanda has not become a Singapore. And it is not about to become one anytime soon on the back of these forms alone.
For me this is the greatest irony of “reform” and the gospel of economic transformation especially in the global south.
Turns out there’s only so much tinkering you can do. At the end of the day the results of the undertaking are only slightly greater/better than those of your neighbour(s) who prefer(s) to sit on their laurels. Or so it seems.
The next example takes us to the same amazing country, Rwanda. This time hacking not just business reforms but football!
In an interview with our publication earlier in the year, a Ugandan journalist friend narrated a rather fascinating story about the Rwanda national football team’s exploits at the previous CHAN football tourney.
In preparation for the tournament Rwanda hired Opta, UK based sports data company, and analysts from premier league side Bournemouth to prepare the team for CHAN.
The job for these analysts was simple: using data from how Rwanda’s opponents play, advise how the team can employ tactics to defeat them.
The analysts watched the last five games of Gabon, one of the teams in Rwanda’s CHAN group, and noticed a player on the left flank who tripped whichever opponent ran at him. They passed on the information to the Rwandan team.
When the two teams finally played, the Rwandan winger kept running at the Gabonese defender until the defender was sent off, and in the process Rwanda won the match by 2-1 to qualify the for the quarterfinals. Rwanda would eventually be exited from the tourney by eventual winners D.R. Congo.
— Kinshasa Informer (@kinshasainforme) January 2, 2017
How a poor country like Rwanda, with so many priorities, can afford to spare effort and scarce resources to help its national team succeed, not at the World Cup or AfCON but a continental tourney for home-based players defies almost everything we’ve come to associate with poor countries. It also sums up the spirit of a people who choose not to define themselves by what the world expects of them, but where they think they belong: the very top of technology use in sports in this case.
Sadly, Rwanda may not even win the World Cup in our lifetime. DRC, like we saw at CHAN, stands a better chance.
Which reminds us of the question, old as humanity itself: Why do nice guys finish last?
In the world of human relationships, while women say they want to date nice guys, their actions and choices often suggest the opposite. Hollywood is inundated with examples such as these (Whitney Houston and her estranged marriage to Bobby Brown comes to mind) and books spanning such diverse fields as psychology and zoology have been written about the phenomenon.
Thus parallels can be drawn between the two worlds – of human relations and economic transformation – and the conclusion is a simple one: doing the “right” thing, and acting right, is not a guarantee to economic heaven, football glory or marital bliss. Somewhere, a bad boy, shabby and with a foul conduct to match, always gets to walk away with the bead-eyed beauty. Unfair, this world!