Rwanda is literally transforming Africa

Rwanda may not be Africa’s largest economy but the East African nation has gradually become the central engine that is dexterously powering a new wave of optimism across the continent through platforms such as the annual Transform Africa Summit that just ended in Kigali.

Slowly, Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is becoming a centre for African decision-making, a role hitherto reserved for Washington, New York, London, Paris, Geneva and Beijing where some African leaders would often fly to summit for instructions on how not to govern their countries.

But folks; the discourse is changing!

As democracy in our dear western world is tumbling into an abyss of nationalistic politics, those global power centres have become preoccupied with overwhelming domestic problems of unemployment, resultant poverty, terrorism, immigration and general anxiety across Europe.

Gradually, Europe and America’s grip on African affairs is loosening as problems at home compete for attention, resulting in a leadership void and a continent fumbling for a force to take charge of its destiny in the absence of a domineering West and its failed development templates.

It is that gap that Rwanda appears to be stepping forward to fill and offer a direction that will spur the continent to ultimately deliver results of the long sung mantra, ‘Africa is rising.’

But you can’t rise on wobbly limbs. Through a number of initiatives, Rwanda, in collaboration with likeminded African nations, is at the vanguard of building new pillars on which the continent can finally rise.

In that regard, investment in ICT is one of the pillars that Rwanda and its peers have chosen and the just concluded Transform Africa Summit was tracking progress and reestablishing commitment to things that must be done to strengthen the ICT pillar in Africa’s development.

I followed the summit from Kigali’s hotel lobbies and bars where delegates were residing; after long sessions during the day, conversations over chilled beer in warm hotel bars are often effortless and uncensored as delegates opine freely over what was said in respective sessions.

“Here is a country (Rwanda)whose development template should be imported to other African nations if we, as a continent, are to accelerate our transformation,” said a delegate from Zambia.

Another delegate, from the Horn of Africa, responded, “Rwanda’s development template is good and has certainly worked or is working for them, but don’t you think it’s too small a template for larger economies like his (pointing to a guy seated next)?”

The gentleman referred to, I gathered from his response, was a Nigerian delegate.

“Not small if you place it in the context of governance principles. Rwanda’s development template has no room for corruption, imagine if we imported this to Nigeria and we managed to save all the money we lose through embezzlement; imagine our transformation!”

Everyone agreed with the Nigerian delegate, who added that Rwanda has managed to buy Champaign for its citizens on a beer budget; being in a pub, the idiom made perfect sense; but in context, his point was, Africa can afford better for its people with reduced corruption.

Many of the hotel bar chats I participated in were full of such conversations. But they had one thing in common; these were Africans discussing Africa and proposing one African nation, Rwanda, as a likely model whose approaches could be replicated across the continent.

They also agreed that, while there is no one size fits all, in real life, the governance principles that have shaped Rwanda’s development and economic transformation after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi can almost universally be deployed elsewhere to similar positive effect.

As the Transform Africa summit is a conversation exclusively on technology, terms such as ‘data modeling’ must’ve featured quite a lot; by definition, often the first step in database design and object-oriented programming as designers create a conceptual mock-up of the end product.

In the quest to transform Africa and its citizens, we must, first, model the kind of Africa and Africans that we all wish for; that would start by mocking up a model nation and a model citizen and once we love what we see, then set out on actualising the dream.

As delegates opined away in hotel bars, I went away drunk on the belief that, in Rwanda, Africa has finally found a model country that could help shape the continent’s transformation agenda using the core principles on which Rwanda’s development template is founded.

Mindset is perhaps the most important element that Africa can adopt from Rwanda; the mindset of independent thought and strong belief in owning and shaping one’s destiny; the mindset of rejecting help if it compromises on one’s own values; that is mindset needed for transformation.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw