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The Economics of Reconciliation

April 02, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Last night I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Center for American Progress. The event entitled 15 Years Later: The State of Rwandan Reconciliation was sponsored by Indego Africa and the Rwanda International Network Association, a group of Rwandans living in the United States. Its intent was to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and to present an in-depth look at the state of political and ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda. Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of Up Front on Voice of America radio moderated the panel which aside from me included:

  • Matthew Mitro, Founder and CEO of Indego Africa
  • Karol Boudreaux, Professor of Law at George Mason University; Lead Researcher at Enterprise Africa! a project of the Mercatus Center
  • Augustin Mutemberize, International Trade Specialist, Africa Trade Office; formerly of the Rwandan Ministry of Finance
  • Andrew Jones, Director of Policy Analysis, CARE USA; former Program Director, CARE Rwanda.

When I wasn't speaking, I was listening intently! There's a lot of fascinating research happening today in the intersection of social entrepreneurship, economics and reconciliation.

In Rwanda, for example, the research done by Karol Boudrequx of Enterprise Africa! has shown two positive results occuring as a result of Rwandan coffee production:

1) Liberalization strategies alleviate poverty and develop human capital. By removing pervasive and oppressive government controls over coffee production and sale, the Rwandan government has created space for smallholder farmers to be entrepreneurial, create new ties with foreign buyers, develop valuable skills, and increase their incomes.
2) Liberalization has had the unanticipated benefit of reconciliation. Liberalization in the coffee sector creates new incentives for smallholder farmers in Rwanda to work together for a common goal: improving their lives through the production of high quality specialty coffee. Working together toward this common goal has helped Rwandans to reconcile with each other in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide.

These positive outcomes suggest that a focus on economic liberalization in post-conflict environments may pay large dividends in terms of both economic development and peace.

You can read the full report here. And you can support the reconciliation that is happening through coffee collectives by buying Rwandan coffee at your local Costco, Starbucks, or even better through the faith-based Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. I've not only had Land of a Thousand Hills coffee, but also given it as gifts and can highly recommend the product and the organization. And for other upcoming speaking engagements related to my book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda,  please visit my website calendar.


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North and South Korea appear to have embarked on a process of national reconciliation. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has repeatedly indicated his disinterest in undermining the DPRK and has instead called for peaceful coexistence. In his 2000 New Year's message he called for commencement of installation of the core components of the promised light water reactors; development of industrial estates on North Korea's Yellow Sea coast.

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