We need structural changes to embrace locally made products

Editor, Reference is made to the editorial, "Only quality will promote local products" (The New Times, December 24). Indeed, "Let's have the right infrastructure in place and the rest will fall into place". And one among the right infrastructure that is lacking in Rwanda, and in Africa in general, is an institution teaching how to recognise quality and embody this into daily use artifacts.
Christine Murebwayire (L), a local exporter, explains about her banana wine at a past National Exporters' Forum in Kigali. (File)
Christine Murebwayire (L), a local exporter, explains about her banana wine at a past National Exporters' Forum in Kigali. (File)

Editor,

Reference is made to the editorial, “Only quality will promote local products” (The New Times, December 24).

Indeed, “Let’s have the right infrastructure in place and the rest will fall into place”. And one among the right infrastructure that is lacking in Rwanda, and in Africa in general, is an institution teaching how to recognise quality and embody this into daily use artifacts.

We badly lack well-thought out, high-level industrial design schools that are not mere substandard copies of European arts & crafts institutes. As for industrialists, either they are too busy taking care of monetary investment yields, or solving mechanical problems. They neither have time, nor robust knowledge to thoroughly consider all aspects of a product use real necessity and physical life cycle – two core ingredients making the quality of a product.

The second infrastructure that would ensure quality and acceptance of ‘Made in Rwanda’ products is the government procurement department that badly needs to be revisited. In the colonial era, administrative procurement in Africa was strategically copied and imposed as is, straight from the metropoles.

In the post-colonial era, administrative procurement is still mere copy-and-paste from the former European metropoles, with insignificant additions imposed by facade nationalism, and by some aggressive American and Asian competitors jostling for returns on their own charity and aid investments in Africa.

In fully independent and self-reliant Rwanda and Africa, hopefully tomorrow, we’ll need an inward bound procurement system, with own specifications tailored to local needs and local production means and capacity, sourcing and purchasing first within the country and around the continent.

Take, for example, the workplace trash bin that doesn’t need to be plastic and ‘Made in’ China or India, etc.

The third infrastructure needed is the right mindset. Since the last five centuries, we Africans have been, for pure loot propaganda, ideologically ranked third and last on the yardstick of humanity.

In this malignant view, we need to be “civilised”, “developed”, meaning to move from third to the first rank.

There is a need for a rigorous, systematic, and general reset of Rwandan and African mindset.

We need to re-evaluate and rehabilitate our non-monetary assets. Both our material and cultural wealth must be put to good use, by us and for us first, individually and institutionally.

High-level trained industrial designers could help with this.

Otherwise how do we explain a situation where a public office in a remote area in Rwanda is equipped with furniture and trash bins made from anywhere but Rwanda? Is a yellow plastic jerry can better with regard to fetching and holding water (or milk) than an earthen pot or a gourd?

Francois-Xavier Nziyonsenga

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