By now, even the most lethargic among us know, Rwanda is a member of the East African Community. It is also common knowledge that we are in the EAC to benefit from being a part of a market comprising 125 Million-plus people.
A market this size is a dream for an investor, skilled professional, and tax collector.
However, we cannot help but worry when we start looking at some trends at a micro-level. There is an English saying, ‘in for a penny, out for a pound’ meaning if you are involved in something, you should be ready for all the consequences.
The emerging pattern has been such that we are seeing more and more East African-owned (read Ugandan and Kenyan) products, service providers, and skilled professionals in Kigali and not vice versa in Kampala and Nairobi.
A typical day for a mid income Kigali resident would be to attend a workshop at the Kigali Serena, shop at Nakumatt, drink a cold Tusker at the Car Wash and fuel your car at Kobil.
However, this is alright as long as all these brands mentioned pay large amounts of monies as tax to the state coffers.
What about the free movement of labor within the EAC?
The major export of our skilled labor has been outside of the EAC through the several UN/AU missions that have many of our Army and Police officers in their service.
Other professions, I dare say, have not had any impact on markets outside of Rwanda.
All expatriates usually have a place to meet and catch up with fellow countrymen and women, share the national delicacy and generally unwind from a hard day’s work.
So which is this place for Rwandans in Nairobi and Kampala and how many people does it attract? And don’t be tempted to think population size explains away this.
If that were the case, we would have Tanzanians who number over 30% of the EAC all over the place. How many Tanzanians do you know working in Kigali?
Simply put, Kenyans (and to a lesser extent) Ugandans are simply dominating the E. African professional jobs market. Look the construction firms, accounting/ audit firms and PR Firms.
So what should be done? It is in the Government’s interests to have a gainfully employed population. This is not only for economic gains but also for political stability. The Government cannot afford a high unemployment rate.
That is why it will set education policy, sponsor good education for deserving citizens and create a good environment for investments. However, after all is said and done, it is a jungle out there.
A prospective employer, Rwandan or foreign, will pick someone who adds the most value to the business and not someone because of their nationality.
As Rwandans, we need to change our attitudes towards work. Work harder, be more aggressive, and look at personal development as an endless pursuit.
Only then can we compete against our fellow E. Africans who have been doing all this for generations while we fought over nothing. Are we up to the task?
The author is communication Consultant