Today is end of the year and of the second decade of the third millennium. As always happens, we will look at it with mixed feelings. Some will sigh with relief that this particular year has ended.
Others will wish it had not ended so soon. Many more wouldn’t care less. They will say time passes regardless of our wishes or expectations.
Even with these different feelings, we still look to the New Year with hope that it will be better than the one just ended. That will be the same general sense tomorrow when we start the New Year.
It is expected to be a good one for the country. At least that is the assurance President Paul Kagame gave the nation eleven days ago.
The year that starts tomorrow has added significance beyond the normal passage of time. It marks the transition from one development vision (Vision 2020) to another (Vision 2050).
It s therefore a period of reflection – on whether we have achieved the goals set out in the vision just concluded and how we were able to do so. The general verdict is that we have largely met those targets.
But it was not always easy. When the vision was launched it appeared a distant dream, an ambitious goal beyond our means. This was especially so considering that the country had no experience in such big plans.
However, those aware of our most recent history could see a precedent. The war of liberation, ending the genocide against the Tutsi, and rebuilding a country that had been destroyed, all in the space of only ten years, had been done with minimal resources.
The only thing in abundance was resolve, discipline, focus on the task at hand, and the sheer will to succeed. That had shown that nothing was impossible.
Still, there were doubts and questions.
The earlier, post-independence generations of Rwandans, mostly living in the country, had been content to trudge along, unbothered by bold, ambitious national plans.
They had put their care in the hands of a clueless leadership and not-so-disinterested benefactors, and a God to whom they offloaded all their responsibilities. They had happily sleep-walked along and somehow survived.
And now, here they were being bothered with something called a knowledge-based economy. What was that? They were being introduced to computers and similar things that they thought b3longed to another world and would only come to them when their owners had found new things and discarded them.
In any case what was the point in spending scarce resources on these advanced technologies when we had not even provided the basics. Fix first things first, so the argument went.
Then the vision unfolded. Things happened and they appeared normal. We didn’t even quite notice, except for the usually nosy people or those whose business it is to measure such things or to make them happen.
In no time ICT became a common term. The internet, in its various spellings and pronunciation, spread to all corners of the country. We even found Kinyarwanda words for these new things. In a sense they had become our own.
The mobile phone became one of the most useful tools. It went beyond the usual communication. It became a means of banking and other financial transactions, and had other applications such as in healthcare, among others.
By the close of the year, smart phones were even being manufactured here and a campaign was on for every household in Rwanda to own one..
We were sending satellites into space.
Concerned about the future of our country and planet, we were initiating brave new ideas. We were making electric motor cycles and cars.
Those previously strange things, drones, now do all manner of things. What’s more, they are going to be made here.
We got used to statistics and other measuring tools and began using them for planning and evaluating our progress. We began to peruse and study various reports and indices about performance or achievement in different sectors. We closely checked the ranking in each sector.
In the past, only experts, academics and researchers would have been interested in such information. Now here they were informing policy at all levels.
Young people, more business and technology savvy and better equipped with the most recent knowledge, more adventurous and not afraid to try new things, are increasingly finding solutions to all sorts of challenges.
In the last twenty years Rwanda has become easily the most integrationist country in this region without making much noise about it. Seen from its past isolation, this is a remarkable shift, not only in terms of external relations, but also in the mindset of Rwandans.
And so looking back on Vision 2020, we have achieved a lot, perhaps more than expected. Yes, it was not always nice and straight and smooth. There were bumps and hurdles and rough patches along the way. But we kept going.
Now, as we begin a new year, we are talking of a new vision, 2050. Expectations are more and doubts fewer because we have already tasted success. Still some linger. Annual per capita income of US $15,000 and all those futuristic dreams, is that possible?
Of course, yes, going by recent experience and glimpses into that future. At the RPF Congress ten days ago, a young Rwandan engineer took us on an excursion into the next thirty years. It was an exciting journey, if a little dizzying.
The future is already here – for those who dare to dream.
At the end of the next thirty years, we shall again make an assessment of our progress. We shall find we have met most of our goals and celebrate our achievements. I intend to be around and not miss out on those celebrations (it’s only 30 years).
In the meantime we shall continue to mark the passing and coming of each year, celebrate what we have done, regret what we failed to do and always pledge to do better.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year, 2020.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.Follow https://twitter.com/jrwagatare