Want to realize Vision 2020? Then start eating at your desk!

Kigali City as envisaged in the Vision 2020 development plan

Kigali City as envisaged in the Vision 2020 development plan

About a month ago, I found myself in a conference room at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning building listening to a presentation on the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2).  I discovered that Rwanda’s leadership refused to rest on its laurels. I learnt that despite the fact that one million Rwandans had said “urabeho” to poverty, enjoying growth rates of above 8%, there was even more goals needed to accomplish.

According to Mr. Godfrey Kabera, the Ministry’s Director of Policy Evaluation and Research, key targets of the EDPRS 2 is an average growth rate of 11.5% per year, poverty reduction to below 30% and the creation of 200,00 new jobs a year among others. All this in between 2013- 2018. While a growth rate of 11.5% per year is extremely high, it isn’t impossible. Just think about it, how hard was it get to 8% growth a year? Now, we need to ask ourselves, how can we squeeze an extra four percent?

The only way that this will become possible is if we individualize our country’s development goals. We need to make them our own. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we know where we can improve our individual output. For example, if you enter the vast majority of public and private institutions at around two in the afternoon, you will be met with closed doors and empty offices. Why? Because the staff members have disappeared to enjoy a two-hour lunch break.

I had an interesting conversation with a senior manager in a government department. I asked him what he thought about the average workers

The famous Afrika Bite lunch buffet

The famous Afrika Bite lunch buffet

lunchtime routine of either driving home or walking to a nearby restaurant to enjoy a leisurely meal. “How much output was his institution losing, I asked. “Probably millions”, he answered. We then discussed whether it would be possible to change the lunch culture to make it normal for workers to either eat a packed lunch at their desks or in the communal cafeteria.  We agreed that it would need a sea change in the way we tackled work. Leisurely three-course lunches with a siesta thrown in would have to be replaced with sandwiches at the workstation. Other workers around the world do it, why can’t we?  You can say that it would increase output by minuscule proportions, but every little thing counts. Remember, we are talking about a ‘mere’ addition 4%.

They say that ‘time is money’. Well, if this is so, we are losing billions because of people’s tardiness.  About two months ago, I needed to get

Eat at work people!

Eat at work people!

something notarized and so I travelled to the notary offices at The High Court premises. First of all, I was shocked to learn that the notary only worked after two in the afternoon. It was plastered proudly on her door (perhaps that is policy). However, what really got my goat was the fact that when her office hours begun, she was nowhere to be found. This, despite the fact that there were about fifty people patiently waiting for her.

Sure you can say that she finally appeared and did her job but I wonder, how many man hours did she make those 50-plus people waste? One, three, four? If each person lost about five hundred francs sitting there doing nothing productive then collectively they, and the country, lost 25,000 worth of output (which I believe is a very low estimation). And that is in a single office.

I’m not so arrogant that I think that better time management will take us to the Promised Land, but unless we radically improve it, we will struggle a lot more than we really need to.



One thought on “Want to realize Vision 2020? Then start eating at your desk!

  1. Rwiliriza S. says:

    Well said. In the highly productive countries people are behind their desks more than ten hours a day. We should get rid of this ancient culture of “lunch breaks and “siesta” The motto now is “self-reliance” which should come with abnegation and sacrifice otherwise we shall never make it. Some members of the private sector have learnt it the hard way because of competition it is high time we get rid of deadwoods in the public sector. Various ministries should think about trimming down their workforce, remain with a few dedicated staff capable of multitasking and showing devotion to their work and their country. Reward them and make them understand their work is appreciated. The deadwoods will go out there and get trained lest they perish. It sounds a bit harsh but life is a learning stage!

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