By Kehinde Augustine
In this brutally globalized world, it is too easy to be drowned in the torrent of information and products crisscrossing international and national borders. Africa is even more disadvantaged in this global exchange. Our colonial history tethered to some unfortunate natural accidents – like geography, climate, resources, etc. – beyond our control has condemned our continent to the receiving end of global trade in ideas and goods.
Part of the consequences of this grave imbalance is the “feudal interaction principle” that determines that poor Third World countries maintain strong (even if highly unequal) relationships with powerful Euro-American countries while relating or knowing little about their equally Third World neighbors, brothers and sisters.
Essentially, we know little about each other in Africa! Save for occasional Twitter banters about the country that cooks the sweetest ‘Jollof rice’ or the one with a national aircraft carrier, little else is heard or said by a majority of Africans about life in other African countries. For instance, many Nigerians can conveniently reel off names of the first to the forty-fifth American president and the cities ensconced in every corner of America or Britain but a far too great number have no idea who the president of Benin Republic [a country that is a negligible 120 kilometer from Lagos, Nigeria] is or where the capital is located. This alone, I believe, highlights the failure of Pan-Africanism.
So, it is in this ocean of mutual oblivion that Paul Kagame’s Rwanda exists and thrives. Rwanda could have likewise taken the path to obscurity but for the exceptional progress currently unraveling in this landlocked country. People everywhere are recording and trumpeting the unusual miracle Rwandans are enjoying. And special thanks to the internet, the stories have filtered to me, too.
Rwanda is indeed on the road to absolute greatness. It takes no superpowers to see it! Gleaming skyscrapers in downtown Kigali and plush resorts mushrooming around Lake Kivu tell the tales. It is said that one can walk the length of Kigali without as much as spot a piece of paper littering the carefully cleaned roads. The capital has the award of the Cleanest City in Africa to show for it. Serious innovations and investment in clean energy, environmental conservation and tourism see the country becomes the darling of tourists packing for Africa.
Economically, Rwanda is doing splendidly well. The country’s economic growth climbed to 8.9 percent in 2018, managed to keep inflation down at 2.3 percent, ranked 29th in global Ease of Doing Business, elected to be member of the 32 nations OECD while drastically reducing poverty at the home front. No wonder then that investors are milling in the country, prospecting for opportunities in agriculture, technology, construction, clean energy, telecom, tourism and the environment.
At the same time, the coterie of world leaders the country has managed to court over the years has puts to shame the notion that Africa only attracts averagely schooled foreign expats. I hear that China and India are – like desperate suitors – battling intensely over this diamond nestled delicately between Uganda and Tanzania. Both are coughing up plenty billions of dollars in loans and infrastructural development to entice it.
The president, also, is a digital exception in a continent burdened with analog leaders out of touch with 21st century realities. Technology, especially ICT, is at the fore-front of his national agenda. In a tweet @PaulKagame, the president announced the rolling out of their locally assembled Volkswagen automobiles. In a separate tweet, I saw that drones can be deployed to deliver blood to Rwandan hospitals. And in online posts and videos, I watch as the country corners every major investment in ICT, clean energy and sundry technologies coming into Africa. Rwanda is, surely, building itself into a brand, a weighty brand that is projecting in a manner similar to the Asian Tigers.
Nevertheless, the path to greatness hasn’t always been smooth for the country. In 1994, ethnic tensions led to the genocide of the minority Tutsi. Two million souls were lost in the ensuing civil war. Since that unfortunate incidence, the country has managed to rebound and move on from its gruesome past in a way no other country in Africa has done.
Rwanda is a lesson to African countries that you don’t need to re-invent the wheels: you can simply copy whatever worked elsewhere and tweak it to fit your local realities and aspiration.
You might not agree with the politics of its leader, Paul Kagame; but one thing you cannot discount is his open policy of innovation, reconstruction and inclusiveness which is evident in their speedy road to recovery from a major catastrophe and the unbelievable progress they have managed across all levels till date. African countries and leaders ought to understudy the system at work in their sister country to see what leaf they can borrow from it.
And so, when on weekends I go to watch the English Premier League [another relic of imperialism that Africa has thoroughly appropriated] and I see Arsenal Football Club of London donning #VisitRwanda, I feel a sense of pride swell within me. Africa, we all must visit Rwanda, physically or virtually. Great things are happening there to make Africa proud!
Kehinde Augustine is a writer based in Nigeria. Twitter @Jethro_Kehinde.