Researching the politics of development



New journal article brings a different take on Rwandan policy making

18 June 2018

A new article by Pritish Behuria in The Journal of International Development has an interesting new take on Rwandan policy making. Rwanda’s economic recovery since the genocide is largely associated with the government’s effective leadership. This paper questions that narrative, highlighting that failure—rather than consistent effectiveness—is a common feature of productive sector policies in late developing countries and that the Rwandan case is no different. Using three examples where Rwanda’s party-owned investment group (Crystal Ventures Ltd) has been used as a key agent in productive sector policies, the paper finds that outcomes of learning from failure have varied significantly, highlighting some way to go before the government’s developmental ambitions are met.
Going against the narrative of effectiveness, this paper demonstrates how many productive sector policies have actually failed, and there has been variation in the outcomes of learning from such missteps. The paper shows how party-owned firms and the government itself had varied outcomes in relation to three forms of learning after failure: policy learning; firm learning to acquire technological capabilities; and collective learning, where governments and firms develop relationships based on reciprocity. The government’s increased reliance on party-owned enterprises has occurred during a period in which its relationships with some previously prominent capitalist partners have become fractured. Although local entrepreneurs remain active—often most prominently (although not only) in investment companies where their investments are pooled together—they are rarely leading business actors in any economic sector. Thus, the RPF has not maintained consistent business relationships with significant prominent private investors in any specific economic sectors, and this has obstructed learning for productive sector policies.
The RPF government satisfies one condition of a developmental state: a clear commitment to development (developmental roles). Yet its ‘developmental structures ’ have not always been supportive. The paper demonstrates how different barriers have blocked learning in the flowers, dairy and building materials sectors. The failure for the government and businesses to collectively learn goes against much of the apparent consensus on the Rwandan government’s effectiveness. Instead, it shows that there are several inefficiencies in aspects of the Rwandan government’s push for economic progress. A ‘learning orientation’ at the macro level has not translated to adaptability in policymaking in certain sectors, highlighting the importance of increased attention to learning within government, and between government and businesses, if Rwanda’s developmental ambitions are to be met.
Read the article online here