Rwanda’s progress is the death knell of TIA

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President of Benin, Patrice Talon addresses press conference alongside his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame 

It’s been months since I wrote a blog and to be honest, I’ve sorely missed doing so. Since the last time I wrote , Rwanda has hosted two major conferences (the AU and the World Economic Summit); two roundabouts magically appeared in Kacyiru and two five star hotels, namely the Radisson Blu and the Marriot, opened their doors. In most countries these landmark occasions would have taken place over years; here all this took place in a span of a mere eight months.

When you live in Kigali, sometimes you take that kind of transformation for granted. I know I certainly do. Often what you need to truly appreciate everything that going on around us is an outsider’s perspective and viewpoint.

The President of Benin, Patrice Talon, who was in the country for a state visit, spoke of this transformation during the State Dinner that took place at the Kigali Convention Center on Monday evening.

“I wanted to visit Rwanda to express in the name of my country and as an African how proud we are of Rwanda’s leadership. This country that became known because of its tragedy is now renowned for its leadership. This country has shown me that when you have the will and commitment, we can do as much if not more than others. We (Africans) are not a cursed people and Rwanda has shown the example”, President Talon said, while toasting his host President Kagame.

What President Talon so powerfully expressing was that Rwanda proved that TIA (This is Africa) was a falsehood. TIA, in my opinion, is shorthand for ‘corrupt, dirty, unsafe, coup d’etat-prone, service deficient, diseased and famished’. TIA assumes that the entire continent is the same; according to the TIA proponents there is little difference between South Sudan and Nigeria. Or Swaziland and Djibouti; it’s all ‘Black Africa’. The Dark Continent.

The worst part of the TIA-school of thought isn’t that foreigners use it to complain about long lines at the airport; the truly unfortunate aspect is that Africans themselves have internalized it as well. Corrupt policemen? No need to report it to their superiors, This is Africa. Garbage strewn streets? Why come together as a community and take care of it, This is Africa. Crime wave caused by unemployed urban youth? No need to demand job creation, simply build a huge barbed wire fence and hire private security. THIS IS AFRICA after all!

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Kigali at night: The Africa they don’t show you

I’m not naïve enough to think that Rwanda’s progress towards a future of true self-realization will be the harbinger of TIA’s demise. However, we should all be proud that we’ve created a small crack in the wall. A historical wall that was built over three hundred years. We might not live to see the TIA wall fall, but I’m confident that our children’s children won’t live under the TIA cloud.

 

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Why the dollar all the time?

The Rwandan franc is depreciating against the dollar at such a rapid pace that it’s almost making my head spin. Which isn’t a huge problem if the Governor of the Central Bank, John Rwangombwa, is to be believed. I’m not an expert in fiscal policy and I won’t pretend to be. So, I don’t have answer, I have questions for the experts. Why do we keep the US dollar as the main currency of trade?

Rwanda’s traders mainly get their goods from Kenya, the United Arab Emirates (especially Dubai), India, China and Japan. None of these countries uses the dollar. When I travelled to China in 2013 I had to exchange my Francs to Dollars, and then Chinese Yuan. At every stage of the transaction I was losing money. Isn’t there a way to cut out the middle man, a.k.a the dollar? If so, why aren’t we doing so?

When I walk past forex bureaus in town I see exchange rates for the Canadian Dollar and the Swiss Franc and none for the Chinese Yuan; which begs the question, which currencies should we get freely exchanging? The one that we used to use years ago? Or the ones that we use today?