Bottom line: Rwanda has enjoyed the highest growth rate of any nation -- in either the developing or industrialized world -- over the last year. The bullish numbers are a call to action for companies looking for new opportunities but concerned about unpredictable regulatory regimes that might endanger their investments or minimize profit margins. Rwanda is "the safest, most secure and forward-looking nation I know in Africa," says Josh Ruxin, a former management consultant, now development professional, who decided six years ago to settle with his family in Rwanda.
Benefits Run Both Ways
Ruxin has invested in Rwanda at many levels. In 2003, as an assistant clinical professor of public health at Columbia University, he developed a market-oriented social and entrepreneurial initiative, The Access Project, which provides private sector management expertise to convert public health facilities into sustainable businesses. (Ruxin's team is entirely Rwandan.) The benefits are at once corporate and human. Consider Musabyimana Beatrice, a 35 year-old mother of two from Bugesera District, Ngeruka Sector of Rwanda. Until recently she spent most of her time at home with a sick child. The nearest health facility, where the care was far from adequate, was a two-to-three-day walk. Her ability to generate much-needed income was severely limited as a result. Enter the Ngeruka Health Center, a quintessential example of a market-based alternative to development assistance. Created under the aegis of the Access Project, the facility provides quality health care and turns a profit in the process. For Beatrice, the Center has eliminated the need to grimly choose between seeking health care and putting food on the table. For companies, it is a practicable investment vehicle model in an emerging market. "In my experience, in areas where health services are dramatically improved, the population is eager to cultivate new businesses and consumer products from abroad, particularly the U.S.," said Ruxin. This investment model applies well beyond Rwanda to all countries with comparable socio-economic potential, and that does not necessarily exclude the nations of the Middle East now swept by radical political change. If nothing else, Rwanda is a pointed example of how public affairs initiatives, and especially health-care advocacy, support financial strategies -- of how an inoculated body can enable an entrepreneurial mind.