Today, the “exemplary development dictatorship” attracts companies like VW in Rwanda. Nevertheless, nothing is really good.

By Thilo Thielke

Twenty-five years ago, a genocide took place in the African country. Today, the “exemplary development dictatorship” attracts companies like VW. Nevertheless, nothing is really good.

KIGALI. Under an automobile plant one usually thinks of something else. This is more like an assembly hall: big, brightly lit and clean. Some men work on snow-white SUVs, Teramont type, seven-seater sedans known as Atlas in the United States and Canada. Next door is a tire warehouse, it smells of rubber. A closed room serves as a training center with eight computers. There are four brand new cars in the “Show Room”. A customer can explain everything. The location is unusual. The SUVs from VW are being screwed together in the heart of Africa, in an industrial complex on the outskirts of the Rwandan capital Kigali. Twenty-five years ago, one of the most gruesome slaughters of modern times began here. These days the sacrifice is thought to have been hundreds of thousands,

The civil war began in October 1990, when Tutsi rebels attacked the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) from neighboring Uganda in Rwanda. Most of them were children of those Tutsi who fled pogroms in 1962 to Uganda. They wanted to overthrow the regime of the Hutu, which in Rwanda, with an approximately 85 percent share of the population, represented the overwhelming majority in the country. Finally, in April 1994, genocide took place after the then-President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down while landing on Kigali. Hutu militias then massacred up to 800,000 people, most of them from the Tutsi tribe. Three months later, the RPF took power. Since then de facto its leader Paul Kagame rules over the country, since 2000 officially as president. Now the country is getting ready To become Africa’s most modern business location. Rwanda’s autocratic ruler Kagame compares his “Repubulika y’u Rwanda” with Singapore.

South Africa’s VW boss Thomas Schäfer still can hardly believe it. Just two hours ago, the conversations with the interlocutors from the Rwandan government lasted, then one had already agreed that the German car manufacturer would build a production facility in the small East African country. “Not 24 hours later, all the bureaucratic stuff was done, and we could get started – and in Africa.” To make things easier for investors, the government has set up a “One Stop Center” that is exemplary on the continent applies. The plant was opened in June 2018, and production began a month later. Kagame even came personally to the inauguration ceremony. VW speaks of a “milestone in Africa,” and shepherds respectfully call Rwanda “a single company.”

Milestone is a big word; The Wolfsburg have invested just twenty million dollars so far – and the cars were already prefabricated in South Africa, where the group has been building cars since 1966. “Essentially, we’re putting the cars back together from 24 major parts,” says Levy Ouso, general manager, “we need six hours per car, so we can screw six cars together in two days.” So far, 60 cars have been completed Ouso, most for car-sharing projects. He admits that the interest of Rwandans has been limited so far. Twenty-two Teramont cars and a Polo have been sold to individual customers. The cars are not cheap either: Depending on the equipment cost one in the trade converted more than 45 000 dollars (Teramont), the other more than 20 000 (Polo).

Model: VW speaks of a "milestone in Africa", and manager Schäfer calls Rwanda with respect "a single company".
Model: VW speaks of a “milestone in Africa”, and manager Schäfer calls Rwanda with respect “a single company”. AFP

“We’re just at the beginning,” says Michaella Rugwizangoga. She is 32 years old and the head of Volkswagen in Rwanda. She used to study chemistry in Kaiserslautern; Since then she speaks fluent German. “Later, up to 2,500 cars could leave the hall each year, and the group’s financial commitment could increase to $ 50 million,” she says. In addition, car sales is not the only lucrative business. Everywhere, so-called “smart cities” are currently being planned, in which people would no longer drive around in their own cars but split the cars. The corporation wants to get involved.

Rwanda is more of a test field, says Schäfer. Through carsharing or services, which function similar to the car service Uber, wanted to advertise the brand in a first step, then later win customers. Finally, in Africa, the middle class is growing rapidly. That’s why Volkswagen has already set up production facilities in Nigeria and Kenya, and Ghana and Ethiopia will soon follow. Nigeria has around 190 million inhabitants, Ethiopia 105, Kenya almost 50 and Ghana almost 30 million – while Rwanda, which once belonged to the German East Africa colony, is a dwarf state with 13 million inhabitants. For Rwanda had spoken, “that it is so investor-friendly,” said Schäfer: “The market itself, however, is too small in the long term.”

Martin Böll sees this similar to “Germany Trade and Invest”, the Federal Economic Development Corporation. “Rwanda is hardly interesting for German companies in view of its market size,” writes Böll, who has the region from Nairobi in view, “German exports stagnated in 2017 at 40 million euros. Even to San Marino or the Faroe Islands, Germany delivered more in 2017. “Rwanda is considered” exemplary development dictatorship “, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung said in a report under the heading” Model Rwanda? “, And the Foreign Office praises, the government in Kigali is making “many efforts to attract foreign investors in particular. In the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business Report’ on investment conditions, Rwanda is regularly ranked second or third among African countries. “Business promoter Martin Böll points to economic growth of 7.2 percent. However, he can not understand why a country whose per capita income is still lagging behind that of failed states like Yemen, Mali or Chad is called an “economic wonderland”.

Rwanda ranks 158th out of 171 states on the United Nations Human Development Index. 55 percent of Rwandans live in “extreme poverty”. Many live in small corrugated iron huts and try to get through as day laborers, others run subsistence farming by keeping goats and chickens and farming a small piece of land. Just two-thirds of the population have access to “adequate drinking water supplies,” as the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation writes. 30 percent are illiterate. The comparison with Singapore seems particularly bizarre. Singapore has a gross domestic product per capita of $ 57,713, which puts it in new place globally. Rwanda is at the back end of the list with $ 800. It had been exploiting the mineral resources of the Congo for years and exported, for example, the essential for cell phones Coltan. Although Kagame “sacrifices human rights on the altar of economic growth,” David Himbara criticizes, “he delivers neither democracy nor growth”. Currently, the country has “about $ 4.4 billion in debt, about 49 percent of gross domestic product,” estimates the political economist, who was once Kagame’s adviser, before breaking with the president: “Between June 2017 and July 2018 alone, the country resigned $ 1.2 billion in new loans. “Rhetorically, he asks,” How should this dependency on debt ever end? ” “He does not deliver democracy or growth”. Currently, the country has “about $ 4.4 billion in debt, about 49 percent of gross domestic product,” estimates the political economist, who was once Kagame’s adviser, before breaking with the president: “Between June 2017 and July 2018 alone, the country resigned $ 1.2 billion in new loans. “Rhetorically, he asks,” How should this dependency on debt ever end? ” “He does not deliver democracy or growth”. Currently, the country has “about $ 4.4 billion in debt, about 49 percent of gross domestic product,” estimates the political economist, who was once Kagame’s adviser, before breaking with the president: “Between June 2017 and July 2018 alone, the country resigned $ 1.2 billion in new loans. “Rhetorically, he asks,” How should this dependency on debt ever end? ”

Through a mutual fund called Crystal Ventures and the Defense Ministry’s Horizon Group, Kagame’s party controls nearly the entire economy of the country and owns large parts of the national construction, real estate, telecommunications, agriculture. “Kagame is doing everything to please foreign countries,” says opposition politician Diane Rwigara. Because he knew that the environmental movement was strong in Europe, he had banned plastic bags. Knowing that feminists are on the rise there, he prides himself on having the parliament with the most female MPs. The inhabitants of Rwanda use all this little.

Opposition politician Rwigara has recently been released from prison. In 2017 she wanted to run for Kagame in the presidential elections. Shortly before, she was arrested and withdrawn from circulation. “Kagame’s economic success is in truth a chimera: hotels are being built everywhere, but most of them are empty like Potemkin villages,” she says. Kagame was more popular with development workers than he was among his compatriots. More than a third of the state budget is financed by so-called donor countries – Germany alone is providing 103 million euros for Rwanda for the period 2017-2020.

One who is not deterred by all this is Henri Nyakarundi. The 42-year-old businessman grew up in neighboring Burundi, in 1996 the family emigrated to the United States, in 2013 he came to Rwanda. He is one of those pioneers on whom the vague hope is based that Rwanda may eventually go uphill. With the financial support of Greentec, a Frankfurt investment fund, Nyakarundi is building solar kiosks where people can recharge their mobile phones, go online and do business online. Because the “hot spots” are powered by solar energy, they can be set up wherever there is demand. Eighty mobile stations already exist, but Nyakarundi wants to expand: first to Uganda, then to Nigeria and Ivory Coast. By 2022, according to the plan,