Improving Coordination and Prioritization: Streamlining Rwanda's National Leadership Retreat, 2008-2011

In 2008, President Paul Kagame was deeply frustrated with his government’s inability to move Rwanda forward after civil war and genocide decimated the African nation in the early 1990s. Four years earlier, concerned about his government’s lack of progress in improving services, he had launched yearly retreats to help Rwanda’s top leaders develop ministerial priorities and shape plans for service delivery. While the concept seemed simple, implementation was not. Early national leadership retreats, some a week long, failed to meet expectations. Poor planning and fast-changing agendas left ministers uncertain about their roles. Reflecting the disorder, retreat participants set hundreds of objectives, and post-retreat implementation lagged. In 2008, frustrated by service delivery failures, public sector inertia and duplication across ministries, Kagame took steps to enhance coordination at the top levels of government. He created two units, a Strategy and Policy Unit within his own office and a Coordination Unit in the prime minister’s office. These actions helped improve the retreat planning process. The two units worked with a retreat steering committee headed by Minister of Cabinet Affairs Protais Musoni. A reallocation of roles at the center of government and a concerted effort to build planning capacity further streamlined the retreat process. By 2011, the retreats had become high-level forums for government planning, coordination and accountability. Participants at the 2011 event developed six priorities, compared with 174 at the retreat two years earlier.

Deepa Iyer drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Kigali, Rwanda, in September 2011. Case published March 2012. Two separate case studies, “The Promise of Imihigo: Decentralized Service Delivery in Rwanda and "Rebuilding the Civil Service After War” provide additional insight into the processes of restoring and restructuring governance in insecure areas.  .

Associated Interview(s):  Fabien Majoro, Protais Musoni, Leonard Rugwabiza

center of government
Vision 2020
steering committee
strategic planning
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Critical Tasks
Cabinet reform
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Deepa Iyer