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How better coordination can bind analysis and action to ignite private investment in Rwanda

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Traffic on a roundabout near Kigali's central business district. Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Kelley Lynch / World Bank Traffic on a roundabout near Kigali's central business district. Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Kelley Lynch / World Bank

In recent years, the World Bank Group has published a series of studies designed to analyze Rwanda’s economic performance and inform policymaking in the country. Prepared in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, this new body of knowledge serves as a framework to examine the challenges the country faces on its path to achieve middle-income status by 2035.

Accelerating structural transformation of the economy sits at the core of this vision. This means, in practice, shifting from a public investment-led economic model (the main driver of a remarkable economic trajectory since the turn of the century), to one in which private investment becomes the true engine of growth.

Stimulating private investment, however, is a multifaceted challenge that requires coordinated efforts. Many governments face barriers turning comprehensive diagnostic material into practical interventions with tangible outcomes. What can governments do to build consensus around strategic interventions? What sort of institutional engagement process can bridge analysis and hands-on implementation? 

This blog proposes a solution based on lessons drawn from an activity recently conducted in Rwanda that brought together public decisionmakers from ministries and other institutions in the government and a multidisciplinary group of Bank Group experts. Its objective was to have a focused, data-informed conversation on actions that support private sector investment. The experience served as a lesson on how to connect content and process, which we summarize as how-to principles, as follows:

  • Start with a clear understanding of priorities (the what and the why). Survey existing analytical work. The workshop was built on a 2020 flagship publication, the Future Drivers of Growth (FDG), together with other analytical outputs published between 2019 and 2021. Three sections in the FDG report (trade and regional integration, modernizing agriculture, competitive domestic enterprises) leveled up the starting knowledge among participants. Rwanda’s Vision 2050 targets require average GDP per capita growth of more than 10% a year.
  • Less is more when presenting analysis. Rather than a lecture, try to synthetize analysis into crisp presentations and use the bulk of your time to stimulate debate among technical teams. In Rwanda, all presentations followed the same structure: after a brief review of priority areas, the presenter introduced potential solutions, with international examples, and used guiding questions to kickstart (not predefine) the discussion.
  • Use relatable practitioners to help include non-World Bank perspectives. The right country case studies and practitioners enrich debates. External speakers and country benchmarks should resonate with the audience, but the real value comes from engaging participants in frank conversation about the challenges they have faced implementing reforms, and how they navigated specific constraints. Organizers can coach international speakers beforehand, so they recognize the workshop’s orientation towards action, and are prepared to provide applicable how-to advice and anticipate hot topics.

Unlocking private sector investment in an economy is a multi-layered challenge that cannot be addressed by one agency, particularly when the issue of private investment is complicated by macroeconomic, demographic, and climate-related pressures. Facilitating the process requires an inclusive and participatory approach that understands the local political economy. This collaborative process can be guided by a series of Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Identify champions in government development boards and finance ministries, generating an authorizing environment with strong decision-making capacity.
  • Assemble a cross-sectoral team that integrates the World Bank’s regional and global expertise with different practice managers and global practice staff.
  • Secure buy-in through pre-workshop consultations with government officials with experience on the ground. For Rwanda, these sessions took place in the six weeks prior to the workshop and were especially useful in capturing views at a more technical level (e.g., from public-private institutions implementing SME support programs or business associations interacting with firms).
  • Think of a venue and room layout that secures attendance, fosters participation, and respects protocol. A U-shaped arrangement tends to be the optimal configuration, taking technical considerations into account, such as microphones and screens. Securing consistent attendance throughout the workshop may not be easy, considering that participants will usually belong to the highest political and managerial levels. An out-of-city location would be ideal to help but, if this is not possible, the room should be big enough for participants to take the occasional phone call without leaving.
  • Position the Country Management Unit (CMU) as the lead in coordinating activities. CMUs are ideally positioned to be the driving force behind these cross-sectoral client-facing exercises. They understand the current demands and needs of client governments, the idiosyncrasies of individual counterparts, and the comparative advantage of World Bank teams.
  • End the workshop with unequivocal agreement on immediate follow-up activities and concrete next steps. The workshop is a tool to measure the real appetite for specific actions aligned with a strategic roadmap. The hands-on work to design and implement an action plan, however, begins the day after.

The amount of preparation time organizing teams have tends to correlate with the outcome of each workshop session, but, in any event, we believe the above factors can act as a guide for an effective and action-oriented process. Well-planned, collaborative exercises, such as the one held in Rwanda in April this year, can strengthen links between the Bank Group’s analytical and operational work. By the end, our participants recognized the value brainstorming sessions have to advance private sector development. This experience would be largely replicable in other countries that require coordinated action to solve development challenges.


Rolande Simone Pryce

World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus

Albert Sole

Senior Private Sector Specialist

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