Butare town, the once bustling centre and bastion of education in Huye District in the Southern Province, is an old shadow of itself.
It was once the country’s centre of learning having been home to the National University of Rwanda and several prestigious secondary schools, including the pioneer Group Scolaire de Butare (Indatwa) that groomed many former and current personalities.
As other secondary cities such as Musanze, Rwamagana, Nyagatare, Nyanza, Muhanga and Rubavu are developing at admirable speed, Butare is struggling to catch up, in fact, even the little infrastructure it had is ageing and rundown.
The once busy trading centre is abandoned and resembles a ghost town and many businesses have either died or relocated to other towns. The business community is at loss of words, it is as if they have run out of ideas.
For many years Butare survived through the presence of thousands of university students who supplied the needed commercial oxygen. With the creation of the University of Rwanda, a result of the merger of all public varsities, many colleges relocated around the country; the town lost its oxygen and creativity.
But even if now some colleges are returning to Butare, it will not be enough to pull itself out of the hole it dug itself. The private sector needs to look within itself and find answers just as other secondary cities have done. That is what the Minister of Trade and Industry was trying to drum into them when he visited them this week.
The local leadership also has to look hard into its bag of tricks to come up with sound policies to attract investors, But the way look at the moment, coupled with the many religious institutions it harbours, Butare will need more than just prayers as no manna will fall from heaven; it needs a wakeup call.