I would like to pick up where I left off in last week’s article because, as Rwanda is currently faced with a myriad of challenges to maintain its long-term competitiveness, its greatest challenge is that of limited intellectual capital.
And, please, don’t get me wrong here; we have the natural-grown potential, we just don’t yet have the resources to fulfill it. And it is key that we address this issue correctly so that our economy may grow.
In the 20th century, wealth creation was through the use of raw materials, labour and capital. But in the 21st century, talented people and the services, ideas and innovations they generate are the critical factors to international success.
We need talent to deal with forces of globalization and the challenges wrought by advances in technology, especially IT; we need talent to stay ahead.
In this context, talent refers to both foreigners and Rwandans. Local talent is valuable, but with a population that is highly uneducated, the Rwandan pool is not yet large enough when the competition we face is the world.
Our local pool must be augmented with the best skills and talents that can be tapped globally.
To that extent, foreign talent enlarges our human resource pool, strengthens our competitiveness, and increases the potential for skill transfer to Rwandans.
Major countries around the world have thrived in the exact same way, even a country of abundant resources like the US.
In 1998, the US Congress approved an increase in the number of visas for foreign talent, just so it could continue absorbing the brightest minds from around the world. Here in Singapore, we see a similar phenomenon occurring.
The world’s successful economies have become that way by recruiting- just as any successful company has- the best talent it can find anywhere it can find it. Rwanda should be no exception.
But as we all know, international talent is extremely mobile, and improved job opportunities elsewhere have eroded our competitiveness.
We must recruit talent by making Rwanda an attractive place to work; we must actively create conditions that are conducive for them to flourish and develop.
Affordable housing, a flexible and competitive education system, respect for foreigners, and cost and quality of living are some areas that can help.
Perhaps most importantly, though, we need to change the mindset of Rwandans towards foreign talent. Rwandans must be more open to, accepting, and welcoming of talent. We need to recognize that foreign talent contributes to and benefits our country.
This effort must involve all levels of society, from the individual to the community to the nation.
Senior leadership, especially at Central level, should lead by example in this regard by finding ways to incorporate and welcome foreign talent into our ranks, making it easy and desirable for foreign talent to work among us.
The dawn of the 21st century should see Rwanda as a centre of opportunity by receiving, and being enriched by the ideas and contributions from outside Rwanda. We must be a society where everyone matters, a society where everyone is valued and rewarded for his or her contributions.
We should be a society where everyone (Rwandan or foreign) is recognized for his/her ability, not what he/she looks like, where he/she comes from, his/her roots. This will be the vital key to our success.