Denis Moye, a distinctive English gentleman who in addition to a Land Rover also owned an old cream Morris Minor – an iconic car for the British – was my colleague at Nairobi High School. One evening around the middle of the month as we sipped some cold ones at a nearby joint, he observed that I was not as generous as I normally would be around the beginning of the month and this is how he explained it.
“The trouble with you Africans is you never know how to spread your joy. You don’t have the culture of saving and investing for a rainy day. Your mindset towards money management is wanting”. That was my first lesson in money management mindset.
As a speaker at a meeting held in Kigali, Mike Fairbanks, Founder of OTF, asked the audience what made a country rich. The following responses were given: natural resources, good climate, an educated society, good infrastructure etc but he rejected all. We were all surprised when he stated that what makes a country rich is the culture of the people. He used the following examples to illustrate his point.
Japan, a tiny county with land that is 80 per cent mountainous, inadequate for agriculture and has no minerals, is the third biggest economy in the world. Switzerland does not grow cocoa but has the best chocolate of the world. In its little territory they raise animals and produce dairy products of the best quality. It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order and labour, which has made it the world’s strong safe.
Mr. Fairbanks went on to show us that the behaviour of the majority of people in rich and developed countries is based on the following principles in their lives: ethics, integrity, responsibility, respect of laws and rules, respect of the rights of other citizens, work loving, strive for saving and investment, time management, a speed mindset, discipline, paying taxes, patriotism and a culture that welcomes new ideas and encourages creativity. In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life.
Countries are not poor because they lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to them but because their culture lacks the right development mindset. Indeed culture binds people together and respecting and following one’s culture is the right mindset for development.
Culture in countries such as Japan, China, India and Korea has played a key role in their development.
Let us take stock of our development mindset. Many visitors to Rwanda from other African countries are amazed by the following when compared to their own countries: high level of orderliness and cleanliness; a pervasive sense of security; paved roads and immaculate sidewalks; street lights that work; effective traffic cops and a levelheaded attitude of drivers; people queuing quietly and patiently to receive services; high respect of rule of law and rules, even the unwritten ones; patriotic acceptance of the Umuganda philosophy; E-government systems that work; a high sense of nationalism, dignity and self-respect (Agaciro); a generally disciplined people and of course the very low level of corruption and the government’s zero tolerance to it. Let us give credit where it is due and recognise our achievements in attaining a development mindset as a nation.
The above gains notwithstanding, there are some key attitudes that still need to be addressed. One of these is the speed mindset. Most foreigners to this country, particularly those working here, find us slow.
We need to think faster, work smarter, empower employees and raise the level of our customer service. One of the most frustrating things I often face is the failure by officials in both the public and private sectors to respond in good time to work-related communication through letters, emails, text messages or phone calls.
It should be made an offence for a public servant to fail to respond to an email within 24 hours. I am told in South Korea, a country that has developed fast due to the right development mindset, that a public servant who refuses to respond to an email, text message or phone call can be summoned by the police. If true, this is indeed a very high level of a positive mindset.
Another mindset that needs to be dealt with is our time management. An extremely infuriating and common thing is to be given an appointment for 9a.m only to be received three hours later – if you are lucky, for very often you are asked to return when the boss is available.
On another aspect of time management, I wish someone would carry out research to determine the man-hours and corresponding economic value wasted between leaving work and retiring to sleep. I bet our country would be one of the richest if this time were to be used gainfully.
Are we work-loving people? Whether in the public or private sector I would give a generous score of 4.5 out of 10. Do we have a savings and investment culture? Going by the rate at which my working children request financial aid from me I think our children have a better mindset in this regard and therefore hope for our future.
These are some of the values practiced by a people with a development mindset. They are important ingredients for economic development and prosperity. Other physical things like natural resources are a bonus. This is why Rwanda’s GDP per capita is higher than that of our more endowed neighbours.
The gains we have made in attaining these values have not come without challenges but due to the spirit of the people and a concerned and far-sighted leadership we have easily overcome them. This development mindset that we have accepted and embraced and which should steer us to greater economic achievements, is undoubtedly the most important legacy President Paul Kagame will have bequeathed the people of this nation.