Rwanda pulls off a first with OECD membership bid ambition

Sunday September 9 2018

Kigali

Rwanda's capital Kigali. Rwanda is lobbying to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as it intensifies efforts to mobilise private investment. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwanda is lobbying to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as it intensifies efforts to mobilise private investment.

While the country is yet to make a formal bid, officials say preparations are advanced though definite details are yet to be made public.

Despite the government’s aggressive investment promotion strategy, which has largely been linked to reducing bureaucratic red tape, fighting corruption, easing and reducing the cost of doing business in the country, officials cite policy conditionality around international borrowing as a major constraint to attracting private capital.

Joining influential international organisations such as OECD could provide an alternative platform to lobby private investors.

“I cannot say much about whether Rwanda qualifies for the criteria to join OECD, but Rwanda has big ambitions to become a middle income country and if joining the OECD can help it reach that target then we think it is a credible move,” said Jo Lomas, British High Commissioner to Rwanda.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Rwanda hired two former Israeli government officials - former Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein and former Israel ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor -- to conduct research and lobbying on the country’s behalf to join OECD.

Membership to the 37-country OECD would enable Rwanda to increase co-operation with some of the world's major economic players in implementing international standards of economic and governance.

The bloc’s member states are generally considered to be meeting international standards that are a pillar to attracting increased foreign investments.

Rwanda declined to comment on its ambitions, but Mr Weinstein and Mr Prosor said that Rwanda hired them to help it join OECD.

“They (Rwanda) hired us. They said, ‘you have experience, you did it in Israel, you can get it done for Rwanda,” Mr Weinstein told Israeli press.

Rwanda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told The EastAfrican that the government’s official position on joining the OECD will be communicated at a later date.

However, government sources with knowledge on the matter told The EastAfrican that a study is underway by the Israelis to develop a credible validation for Rwanda’s intentions to join the body.

Experts say that Rwanda’s ambitions to join the high-income intergovernmental economic bloc stems from its strong desire to have a better international profile and increased political participate on the global scale.

Andrew Mold, the Uneca acting director for Eastern Africa – who also previously worked for OECD for close to four years – said that Rwanda would largely benefit from participating in the high level private discussions that happen at the OECD level.

Experts argue that Rwanda’s case to join may benefit from the stance of OECD’s Secretary General, Ángel Gurría — a Mexican who portrays a more welcoming attitude, seeking to expand the body’s membership to developing countries, although he faces serious opposition from within.

He was successful in getting Chile to join in 2010 and Colombia in May 2018, but no African country has joined yet.

Mr Mold added that Rwanda’s perspective on what is important for Africa and the developing world can be quite useful to the OECD.

Sources at the body say that most African countries do not currently meet the political and economic criteria for admission to the OECD.

The body’s criteria for accepting new members states that it considers shared commitments to pluralist democracy, rule of law, human rights, as well as adherence to open and transparent market economy principles.

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