In the 21st century, developing country policymakers are offered different market-led role models and varied interpretations of ‘developmental state role models’. Despite this confusion, African countries pursue emulative strategies for different purposes – whether they may be for economic transformation (in line with developmental state strategies), market-led reforms or simply to signal the implementation of ‘best practices’ to please donors. Rwanda has been lauded for the country’s economic recovery since the 1994 genocide, with international financial institutions and heterodox scholars both praising different facets of its development strategy. This paper argues that Rwanda is an example of a country that has simultaneously pursued emulative strategies for different purposes – often even within the same sector. This paper examines the Rwandan government’s emulation of different role models for varied purposes. Two studies of emulation are explored: the emulation of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (RDB) through the establishment of Rwanda’s own Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the evolution of Rwanda’s financial sector with reference to the use of contending market-led and developmental state models. The paper argues that in Rwanda, incoherent emulation for different purposes has resulted in contradictory tensions within its development strategy and the construction of a neoliberal developmental state.