New smartphone technology for agri-business in Rwanda

New technology to help Rwanda’s private fertiliser traders to develop efficient and competitive fertiliser procurement and distribution systems has been extended to all sectors across the country.

With funding from Usaid, the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) was introduced in March 2013, to help fertiliser importers, distributors and retailers monitor and manage trade and sales.

Using smart phones equipped with the mFarms application, agro-dealers are able to record all supplies bought from distributors and all sales to customers and calculate their remaining stocks.

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Rwanda Named Least Corrupt Country in Africa

Transparency International Boss Speaks About Rwanda’s Fight Against Corruption.

A Transparency International report last year ranked Rwanda the least corrupt country in Africa and was among the top 50 best performing countries in the world out of 177 surveyed. The New Times’ Eugene Kwibuka caught with Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Transparency International, as she wrapped up her trip in the country on Tuesday.

Police officers, judicial staff and lawyers march against corruption of Friday last week. Timothy Kisambira

Below are the excerpts:

What have you found out on your visit to Rwanda?

The first thing that all countries need is rule of law, a judiciary that is professional and provides justice to all people as well as a professional police force that carries out independent investigations. The justice system in Rwanda in functional and there are also other institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman where people can report anything wrong.

There is also a law protecting whistle-blowers and a number of other laws. So, Rwanda’s legal framework, judiciary, and oversight institutions like the Auditor General are all functional and I think other countries need to emulate this.

What are the major legal and institutional gaps that most countries lack as far as fighting corruption is concerned?

Many countries do not have the institutions or have them but they are not strong or lack independence. It is important for the prosecutor and Ombudsman to be independent so that they can dispense justice professionally. Unfortunately, these are some of the things lacking in many countries around the world.

Transparency International Rwanda last year cited the police, decentralised entities and the judiciary as some of the most corrupt institutions in the country. What could be the cause of this?

Well, I think in many countries, the local traffic police is vulnerable to corruption even more than the police who investigate crime, for example. The other areas of vulnerability in any country are procurement and construction which happen a lot at the local level. So, I think all countries have to strengthen local governance because this is the level of government that people interact with daily. It’s about access to health, education, justice, water, and being able to get a licence without having to bribe. I think strengthening capacity and integrity at all levels of government is important but we need to pay more attention to the local levels in all countries.

What could be the most effective policy prescription when it comes to fighting corruption in these areas where people go to seek critical services?

There are many things that are important but one of them is to ensure that people hold public officials accountable. People need to know how money for healthcare, schools and roads etc is spent. The transparency of the flow of money all the way to the point of delivery is a very important aspect.

The other aspect is to ensure proper procurement procedures. And the third one is to ensure that local governance units perform their duties in such a way that services are rendered to people without request for bribes. For example, ensuring that there is no cash transfer between the service delivery person and the person receiving the service. There are a number of other prescriptions but these are the most important.

In your view, what has Rwanda done differently to end up with less corruption?

There is strong commitment at the top. There is zero tolerance for corruption right from the top down to the citizenry. As I said ealier, many countries have laws in place that are not implemented, and have regulations that are not enforced. The big issues are always about procurement, local government, transparency, enforcement, and implementation of laws and regulations.

So, Rwanda has that political will from the top to do these things?

That’s what is perceived. That zero tolerance to corruption has been promoted is very important in any country. This might be rather interesting but I would like to hear your thoughts.

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Rwanda to Build Solar Power Plant Near Kigali

Rwanda will become the first country in east Africa with a utility-scale solar plant after a $24m deal was signed to build the scheme outside Kigali.

The 8.5 megawatt solar  project is the brainchild of American-Israeli green entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, a pioneer of Israel’s solar industry. It is expected to boost Rwanda’s electricity supply by 8 per cent once it starts operating this year.

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One Laptop per Child in Rwanda

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child in Rwanda) programme is one of the pillars of Rwanda’s Vision 2020, which aims to turn the country into a knowledge-based economy similar to that of Singapore in South East Asia.

In the wood-panelled halls of his official office, we meet President Paul Kagame, who has personally been a driver of this vision. He says information technology will help to turn Rwanda into a regional tech hub that will help Rwandans “find jobs, feed their children and regain their dignity”.

The tragedy of the 1994 genocide is a strong motivation for President Kagame. In his view, better access to information might have helped victims and perpetrators make different political choices.

For him, the IT revolution is not only about modernising the Rwandan economy – at the core, it’s about healing the nation.

Mr Kagame has presided over an era of robust growth in Rwanda. Last year, the economy grew by more than 7%.

Government reforms have encouraged foreign investment and the World Bank has ranked Rwanda the third best country in sub-Saharan Africa in its “Doing Business” index.