Like Bhutan, we enjoy Gross National Happiness in Rwanda

Most African nations are called “third world” countries and that comes with a lot of baggage; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that perpetuates our poverty.

Most African nations are called “third world” countries and that comes with a lot of baggage; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that perpetuates our poverty.

When a western multinational looks at one of our better performing banks, the assets will be valuable, well-capitalised, good coverage and all the Key Performance Indicators will be good; but one word will end the whole interest – Third world.

That word bestows so many assumptions on an emerging nation; in the economic sense, it means poor - but in the social context it means “uncivilised.”

This in turn deters investors from viable projects in the “third world”; it implies it is a part of the world to exploit, to avoid except for aid, and the game stays the same.

I have come up with a brilliant scheme to remove Rwanda and the whole of Africa from the “third world” in general; simply get rid of that word.

We have been categorised and given a programme to help us get rid of that phrase – third world. Some people are trying to find new performance indicators that can adequately reflect the state of African economies; our GDP’s are low, per capita income is low, but that does not reflect our economic potential or power.

Most of our economy is in the black hole of the informal sector, it is something impossible to quantify or qualify. Most rural Africans buy only essential goods: food, soap, batteries, but their bartering power is strong.

Some indicators are essential, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, economic growth; but others do not reflect our position. Nations have found that growth is not just growth, it depends on what sector it is in and who is benefiting; Britain saw growth in banking and finance while manufacturing and exports were falling, so the banking crisis hit them badly.

Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan Buddhist nation that has only recently emerged from self-enforced isolation; in Bhutan they measure Gross National Happiness.

A prime minister can be sacked because the public aren’t happy, even if he/she has managed the affairs well.

Happiness is impossible to measure, as it is subjective; but social confidence can be empirically measured in polls.

If you took a poll of Rwandans I think there would be an overall positive assessment of life in Rwanda; there might be problems, inflation and unemployment, but by our own standards we have improved.

Personally, my feeling is that Rwanda could top an index for true quality of life; low crime, we have low pollution, organic food, strong family structures, social responsibility and comparatively cheap lifestyle.

If there was a kindness index, then Rwanda would be among the top, but there is no kindness index; I remember in Britain it was hard to get anyone to help you in even the most trivial way.

I see the huge numbers of expats in our nation and am humbled; what would make a corporate lawyer from Manhattan to come to live in Kacyiru.

They must see the quality of life on offer in Rwanda and see the benefits of “down-shifting” to a relaxed lifestyle. Don’t believe when they tell you that you are backward or “third world” because that would mean you are a third-class global citizen.
The author is a regular contributor

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