Forgive me but, for the umpteenth time, I must revisit the service sector – or its absence – in this country. We all know that for a long time the sector has had everybody, including our very President Paul Kagame, bemoaning its despicable state.
Yet, we also know that the fellows in the sector are scornfully laughing in our face, instead of doing something about it. As it is, I am reading a story penned by a visitor that can make any sane Rwandan weep in shame.
Let me quote him: “Right now I am writing from a table at the café in Chez Lando. There must be – and let me count to make sure – 10 waiters in uniform in all and – let me count again – 6 of them are doing absolutely nothing at the moment.”
Meanwhile, the café is teeming with hungry customers who want a quick bite before they go their hurried ways! This situation would be tolerable if it were in only one hotel.
Unfortunately, the writer quotes many other hotels and eateries in the country, and we know that it is a malady that bedevils many places in Rwanda that are supposed to render service.
Which is why every Rwandan who needs a service usually has to look for anybody who knows somebody where he/she needs the service.
You want your car insured? Ask your friend Jean Baptist if he knows an employee of Sonarwa who can give you quick service!
The story writer can’t even believe that service is better in Burundi than here. Seeing as Burundi is a “Mess of a country. Rebel groups and a weak government, bombed out roads, bombed out buildings, malaria …everywhere”, he’d have expected more vibrant service in orderly and clean Rwanda.
Without doubt, the private sector service is successively better in the sister East African countries of Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, than in Rwanda. Yet, there is a pleasant twist to it that was recently revealed to me.
Take the following story, this time of my own experience. I was at my workstation when I received an urgent call that my 72-year old brother was down with some disease.
Knowing that the old geezer had never fallen sick, I quickly concluded that this once might be his end, just as it had been for our never-before-sick 93-year old father.
I therefore quickly got Pastor Hesmu, my other brother, and we rushed the geezer ‘Kwa Kanimba’, as the clinic in St. Paul is popularly known.
After giving our patient some preliminary work-over, the doctor there gave him a transfer to the national referral hospital for more thorough examination and treatment.
Once at the hospital, known as Kigali Hospital and University Centre (whose French acronym is CHUK), I was beginning to look for ‘someone who knew someone’ when a nurse quickly ushered us into the intensive care unit.
When I was fumbling with my cellular phone to look for ‘someone who knew the doctor’ on duty, I realised that nurses were already examining my brother’s temperature, blood, urine, etc. as the doctor quickly and efficiently dealt with those who had come before him.
I stood there speechless, as I marvelled at the speed with which the hospital staff dealt with the big number of patients who were streaming in!
My brother is now up and kicking. CHUK today is decidedly a far cry from the hospital that we ran to for mortuary services in 1995 that took practically the whole night!
Today, that whole night is not enough to see an accident victim who has been rushed into the intensive care unit of Kenyatta National Hospital, in Kenya.
Nor is it, in Mulago National Hospital, in Uganda; nor Hôpital Prince Régent, in Burundi. You may get some service in Muhimbiri National Hospital, in Tanzania, but it will not be the fastest.
So, contradiction of contradictions, when you are in some government institutions in Rwanda, you can only tell that you are in an African country by the skin colour of those serving you!
Go to the Rwanda Development Board offices, the Immigration and Emigration Department offices, the airport, and a number of others and you’ll see service that is unrivalled in the region.
It is this contradiction of efficient government service and apathetic private sector service that confuses Western ‘experts’, so that they see the Rwanda government as being too strong for democracy!
However, methinks the efforts of our top leadership to transform this country into an efficient machine are worthy of praise. The private sector may take its time, but it will have to catch up.
Then our paternalistic partners can have ‘their’ democracy, for no one will need to push anybody to work for a better life, any longer!