Image Credit: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank
SETTING THE SCENE— Rwanda’s extraordinary recovery from complete political, economic, and social collapse following the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is one of Africa’s most encouraging development success stories. The Government of Rwanda has since committed to undertake a fundamental, broad-based economic and social transformation intended to shift the country from low- to middle-income status, and this commitment has already yielded highly remarkable results. Rwanda is one of the few African countries that achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Its real economic growth averaged 8% per annum from 2001 to 2015, which translated into significantly reduced poverty levels, from 56.7% in 2000 to 39.1% in 2014, as well as a decline in extreme poverty levels from 35.8% in 2000 to 16.3% in 2014.
A key element of Rwanda’s success is lined with the implementation of Imihigo, an ancestral cultural practice relating to performance contracts. The modernization of this practice is one of several innovative approaches being used to reinforce development planning, implementation, and evaluation towards improving living conditions for Rwandans. All levels of government – including national, provincial, and district – are required to plan and implement their own Imihigo commitments and targets (e.g. infrastructure development, job creation, etc.). These are informed by broader medium and long-term planning and budgeting processes, such as Rwanda’s Vision 2020, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), sector-specific strategic plans, annual action plans, and the 5 year District Development Plans.
The evaluation of Imihigo was traditionally led by a committee comprised of representatives from the President’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Local Government, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. Since 2014, however, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda) has been invited to carry out the evaluation and provide an independent view on the extent to which Imihigo targets are attained.
WHAT IPAR-RWANDA DID—IPAR-Rwanda used a participatory approach towards the evaluation for fiscal year 2015-16, integrating the views of policymakers, local government officials, development partners, and citizens on the planning and implementation of Imihigo. The evaluation involved appraising achievements against the performance targets within several clusters – economic development, social development, governance, and justice – based on supporting documents. This was complemented by interviews with key government officials, development partners, and officials from civil society organizations; focus group discussions with members of district committees and citizens; and field-level verification through a sample of projects. Factors considered in the evaluation included the extent to which proposed activities and targets aligned with national development plans and had the potential to inform social and economic transformation; the level to which targets were reached and achievements were made; the availability, quality, and accuracy of supporting data with which to validate the achievements; and the role of various partners in supporting and implementing planned and committed activities.
The evaluation revealed a number of achievements that have helped to improve the lives of Rwandans. For example, more than 4500 new small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were created that year, 177% more than had been targeted for. SMEs were found to be important since they created jobs, promoted entrepreneurship, and provided access to finance and business development skills, particularly for women and youth. According to the latest report of the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey released in 2015, at least 200,000 new off-farm jobs have been created each year since 2011. Building on this momentum, the Government of Rwanda is likely to achieve its target of creating 1,000,000 off-farm jobs by 2018. Furthermore, 748,342 households (97% of the target) now have access to clean water within 500m of their doorstep, which has helped improve sanitation and reduce the amount of time used for fetching water. Lastly, the evaluation found that development partners (international agencies, NGOs both national and international, private sector) played a major role in helping to reach Imihigo targets by aligning their socio-economic development programs and funding projects with government priorities.
THE OUTCOME—IPAR-Rwanda was invited to present the evaluation findings to high-level political representatives, including a forum of government ministers chaired by the Prime Minister of Rwanda and during a televised ceremony chaired by the President of Rwanda that was broadcast on national television and radio.
IPAR-Rwanda found that despite much of the positive progress observed as a result of Imihigo, there are some areas that could be further improved. For instance, delays in the disbursement of funds from the central government to the district level can severely limit the amount of progress made towards specific development priorities and targets. Having reviewed past Imihigo evaluations, IPAR-Rwanda recommended that the central government take measures to ensure timely facilitation, guidance, and transfer of funds. The Government of Rwanda subsequently revised its money transfer strategy, which has since resulted in reduced delays for the disbursement of funds to local districts. Findings also showed that while tremendous achievements had been made in providing to citizens with decentralized service delivery and access to more political spaces for expressing their views, civic engagement was lower than would be expected. IPAR-Rwanda recommended that additional efforts be made to consult with citizens during the preparation of Imihigo, particularly for targets that apply to the community level. The Ministry of Local Government took this recommendation on board and is now working with districts to ensure strong citizen involvement in the preparation of Imihigo.
IPAR-Rwanda’s visibility and credibility has greatly increased over the last three years as a result of its involvement in this important initiative. For instance, this has contributed to a new collaboration between IPAR-Rwanda and the University of Massachusetts around a three-year initiative to advance administrative justice in Rwanda, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development. IPAR-Rwanda has also since been commissioned by the Office of the Prime Minister to evaluate the country’s Seven Year Government Program (2010-2017), which guided the central government’s activities and investments during this period in key areas such as infrastructure, utility provision and maintenance, housing, affordability, and environmental considerations. IPAR-Rwanda will conduct the end-term evaluation, which will assess the success of the Program, as well as inform the planning of future national development programs.