Cranes, Trains, and Automobiles

November 2, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Bond issuance, consumer behavior, interest rates….ahh, love at first sight, or listen. That was my first thought in my first economics course. I know, geek central, or better yet, mild mannered policy wonk! There are a few things I remembered from that class, but a lot more I forgot. One thing that I did remember is Professor Ghilarducci’s “crane index”. It was 1997 and she had just come back from China and remarked that you can tell a country is growing rapidly not only by its GNP per capita, but by how many cranes there are in the sky. Her premise was that cranes signaled new construction which symbolized investor confidence and investment, job creation.

Well, Rwanda may not have cranes, but it does have scaffolding (see picture above of Kigali Institute of Ed with scaffolding)! And the scaffolding index is high these days. I returned to Rwanda recently after a stint in the US, recruiting an international technical partnership and raising venture philanthropic capital. Much has changed—there’s a new beer (Skol), a wider road, and lots of new scaffolding to symbolize what the cranes did in China... But is all growth good? What do you think? To be continued….


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