Happy June! Happy 2018! It’s been almost two years since I’ve put my thoughts on paper and to be honest, I’ve missed doing so. Over the last two years Rwanda has witnessed major reforms, developments, sporting victories and tragedies. We’ve seen droughts and we’ve seen floods. But amidst all this, one thing hasn’t changed; our leadership’s ironclad will to overcome the intrinsic challenges and structural weaknesses that threaten to keep us poor, uneducated, unskilled, unambitious and ill. The ‘problem’ with such leadership is, if you can’t keep up, you are pulled out of the game. It’s almost like America’s favorite pastime, baseball; three strikes and you are out.
That is the context through which I see the ‘tsunami’ that has been washing away civil servants all over the country. A while ago, I remember thinking that President Kagame’s new seven-year mandate would separate the wheat from the chaff, politically speaking.
The things that were almost ‘acceptable’ two years ago would become untenable. The definition of exemplary leadership conduct would change. The Imihigo performance targets would be revised and the speed of implementation would treble.
I haven’t been mistaken. Unfortunately, many leaders did not seem to get the memo. They thought that it would be business as usual. They are quickly finding out that is not the case.
We aren’t doing business as usual. We aren’t trying to develop this country slowly but surely. We are trying to radically change the way we do things in order to skip as many steps as possible. That is why we investing in our country branding through initiatives such as ‘Visit Rwanda’. That is why we are opening up our borders and allowing visa on arrival. That is why we are investing in our airline. That is why we are finding new allies around the world while attempting to repair old ties with estranged partners.
This transformation is not and will not be easy. They’ll be long nights at the office, metaphorically and literally speaking. We’ll have to use our resources better; we’ll have to create four times more value for each Franc we invest in a project. And we’ll all need to care. No longer can we accept the mediocrity that has assailed us, whether in the private or public sector. We deserve better and we need to do better.
Last Tuesday, BBC journalist John Humphreys interviewed the RDB Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi, about the Visit Rwanda- Arsenal FC partnership. He called the deal ‘positively eccentric’ and ‘incredibly bizarre’. In my opinion, by labelling the deal in such terms, he was simply stating what he thought of our country’s leadership. He thought they (and by extension we, as a people) were eccentric and bizarre.
Funnily enough, I agree with him on the labels. There is a Yiddish word that I think embodies all the bizarreness and eccentricity that is flowing through the veins of today’s Rwanda, chutzpah (audacity).
Rwanda has the audacity to play in the big leagues (even if they happen to be in the English Premier League). We have the audacity to not only dream big but to go even further and bring the dream to life. No matter the cost. Now that makes a lot of people, both within and outside the country, uncomfortable.
That sense of discomfort is good, especially for us living in Rwanda. Why stay comfortable while children still lack proper nutrition? When people still drink lake water? When too many of our youth are unskilled and unemployed? We cannot afford to be comfortable and rest on our laurels because, to be honest, we don’t have enough laurels to rest on