WHAT DO milk and mangoes have to do with post-Genocide Rwanda’s growth agenda? Nothing, or a lot, depending on how one looks at it.
On March 23, this newspaper quoted official figures indicating that dairy products made the country more money in the Fourth quarter of 2013 than any other product.
This might have come as a surprise, but then again, Rwanda has been referred to as the land of milk and honey.
Rwanda sold milk to Burundi, DR Congo and Tanzania. If there were any doubts, then it is increasingly becoming clear that there is big business in Rwanda trading with her neighbours.
While mulling over this interesting new information, I bought mango juice from a shop in Kigali. But this particular brand was pretty rich and tasty.
I looked closely at the packet and lo and behold! It was made in Egypt. I have never associated Egypt with mangoes but there it was. It was cheaper, at least as cheap as our local brands come.
I found this strange.
The serious points in the seemingly fickle anecdotes about milk and mango juice, are as follows; one, it is clear that Rwanda’s journey to progress must not be structured on what we consider to be the tried and tested paths to progress.
We have to be more fluid, rather than structured in our thinking.
We must try every way and everything. If milk can surpass coffee as a leading export and Egyptians can export affordable mango juice to us, then surely there has to be so much more that we can do as it seems there is a plethora of opportunities out there.
Two; we have to increase trade with our neighbours and the wider region. We have more control over this trade. The same cannot be said of our international coffee business.
As Julius Nyerere would put it, in terms of international trade, we are featherweights. In boxing, it makes more sense for featherweights to fight featherweights, the same goes for other categories.
As we punch above our weight, we must punch within our weight more.
Three; Gir’inka (one cow per family) programme seems to be working for us well. It is credited with the milk exports rise. We must now ask how we can improve it and what other initiatives we can undertake going forward.
How can we bring more people aboard the production ship? How do we move from poverty reduction to wealth creation?
One of the main lessons from the aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi is that nothing is impossible.
If Rwanda can rise from being the basket case, a failed state that was seen as hopeless and without a future to be a respected nation that is a role model to Africa and many other nations, then one has to be downright pessimistic and cynical to think otherwise.
So here is Rwanda, arisen and hopeful, organised and focused, dignified and respected; hence the question, how much further can Rwanda go?
How can it get there? Is Vision 2020 ambitious enough? How does Rwanda lift her citizens from poverty towards further economic prosperity?
One of the key pillars that would ensure that our ‘Never Again’ mantra to genocide in our land is economic empowerment.
Forget the complex arguments; put simply, a person who has and can get more has something to focus on and grow some more and have something to lose from a disruption of that growth process.
We must avoid having people in situations in which they have nothing to lose. Poverty can do this rather effectively if history is anything to go by.
We honor the Genocide victims best by removing and breaking down conditions that led to the Genocide in the first place. We can make big impact from little things.