Development is one of the widest subjects one can ever study. It is also one of the most confused topics out there. There is a lot evidence pointing in this direction but the best place to start is with the “Africa is rising” theme that we see or hear of a lot about these days.
After having tagged this continent as a dark one for decades, many have woken up and realised that indeed, the continent is the place to invest. When the media caught up with this reality that Africa is rising, it stirred up sudden interest.
Many others have chosen to write extensively about Africa’s growing middle class. Unfortunately, the people classified as middle class in most African countries are identified as such based on their spending habits. In other words, it matters less whether someone’s income has increased but how and what they are doing with it.
To this end therefore, the so called middle class has turned out to be those Africans with Western tastes and preferences. A friend of mine prefers to refer to them as the supermarket class.
The ones who will drive miles from home just to pick up salt and a few groceries from Nakumatt supermarket for instance. Interestingly, they prefer to drive to the supermarket to buy the same things they could have bought from the local shop just around the block.
Someone has to crack this mentality if African countries in general and Rwanda in particular are to develop. It is one thing to attract investors to put up large shopping malls but we still need to support our own if we are to achieve any meaningful development.
Even in a free market, common sense should prevail. Why should you buy milk that is imported from far when there is local milk on the shelves? If your decision is to buy the imported milk because of quality, how do you expect the local milk to achieve the quality you want if it is not being bought at all?
Do our middle class shoppers even know that large supermarket chains like Nakumatt or Tuskys began as mere shops? How can we then support our own Ndolis to grow into supermarket chains? How do we expect the small shop near our shop to grow if we prefer to burn fuel by going to town to shop?
I also do not understand why anyone in their senses would prefer to stock frozen produce from the supermarket yet we have markets with lots of fresh produce? How can we sing about Agaciro everyday yet we allow fresh vegetables to rot at Kimironko market as we line up to buy the frozen version of the same in the supermarkets?
I have also visited some hospitality facilities in this country and you will be shocked to find that a lot of the food is imported. Even if your clientele is largely Western, I do not see why you feel the urge to stock the same things they have been eating in Paris or Brussels unless you are an international hotel chain.
I think it is high time that the government embarked on a campaign to promote local produce. Agaciro should also extend to our shopping habits.