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Between party capitalism and market reforms – understanding sector differences in Rwanda*

  • Pritish Behuria (a1)

Different strategies have been used by the Rwandan government to promote capitalist accumulation. In some sectors, party and military owned enterprises are predominant. In others, the government has chosen to embrace market-led reforms. Ultimately, the vulnerability experienced by ruling elites contributes to the choice of how capital accumulation is promoted in different sectors. Ruling elites use party and military enterprises to centralise rents and establish control over the direction of economic policy. However, centralising rents is a political choice and excludes individuals from developing access to rents. The pyrethrum sector shows that the use of such groups has resulted in unequal outcomes despite increases in productivity. Reduced international prices have stunted further productivity. Conversely, the mining sector shows evidence of the pursuit of market-led reforms. These reforms have been accompanied by rapid growth in domestic production and exports. Foreign investment was necessary in order to bring capital and expertise to the sector. However, the government has struggled to retain the capacity to enforce legislation and discipline foreign investors in line with national priorities. Both sectors show evidence that ruling elites have been prompted by vulnerability to commit to economic development. Constraints that have accompanied strategies pursued in these sectors have forced the government to work ‘reactively’ to achieve strategic targets.

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Between 2011 and 2015, several research trips were conducted for the author's PhD research. This paper is a product of that research. Many respondents offered their time and shared their ideas for this research. I am extremely grateful to them. Two anonymous reviewers provided thoughtful comments that improved this paper. All errors and omissions are my own.

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