“Rwanda away from home” is not just another fashionable slogan invented by zealous government functionaries. It is real as thousands of Rwandans who live in many countries across the world will testify.
They regularly get to meet the President and together think of how to make their country better.
Last Saturday, President Paul Kagame was in Dallas, Texas, in one of those gatherings in which Rwandans outside the country get a feel of home, and for that day declare the meeting place Rwandan territory.
He has done this so many times in different countries in order to keep Rwandans connected to the motherland, remind them of their common ownership and duty to it.
The gatherings are an occasion to reflect on the values that define Rwandans and their place in the world, especially their self-worth.
It always works. The bond is visible and palpable. You feel the enthusiasm and energy and the pride of belonging.
This time he met a special group of young people whom he called the guardians of Rwanda’s heritage and agaciro, agents of its transformation, and guarantors of the country’s future.
They must be prepared to receive the baton – indeed in many senses they already have it – to take the country forward. To do this effectively, they must obtain the tools that will make the change happen. Which is the reason most of them are where they are – to acquire knowledge, skills and experience necessary to propel Rwanda to the next level in its development.
That is another reason that makes the Dallas group that the president met special. They have gone to do what the President says he goes to do whenever he visits foreign lands – guhaha (to go in search of what will benefit the country). He has done it very well – made friends for Rwanda and brought business to the country.
The students too are doing their own guhaha – bring back knowledge, skills and other expertise that will be of use to those they left behind.
Today’s concept of guhaha is not simply about having enough for the night, the next day or even month. It is no longer purely for subsistence alone. Instead, it is to have enough for now and the future.
That is the duty of the students – to bring back enough to change the lives of Rwandans for good. Specifically, they should seek all the technological innovations there is and bring it home.
This means that they must do well in their studies. But more than that, they must move out of the classroom and look at how things are done in practical, everyday life – on the production line in industry, on the farm, in the corporate boardroom, research laboratory and many other places.
When they return home, they should be able to apply or adapt what they acquired to local conditions and thereby improve the well-being of all of us.
If they do that, they will have done their guhaha effectively. In time, others will be coming here in search of what they can take back home to their countries.
We wouldn’t be the first to do this. Asian countries know something about guhaha ubwenge (search for knowledge elsewhere) perhaps better than most.
They send their brightest young people to the best schools in Europe and America. The young people study and excel in their chosen field, and because of this they get opportunities as apprentices in a real; work environment and add practical skills to the knowledge they already have.
Eventually they return home, armed with more than they went for. What they bring back is invaluable and is in part responsible for the remarkable transformation of such counties as China, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore and so on.
Of course some opt to remain in the West, or are induced to stay because of their high potential to contribute to the economies of the countries where they studied.
But they keep a connection with home and regularly send information on new discoveries, developments and innovations in various fields. That information is then used to make the spectacular developments we have seen in Asia in the last few decades.
If we want get to middle income status and beyond, we may do well to do something similar. Our young people studying or working abroad are expected to seek knowledge, skills and innovations capable of transforming our country, and bring it bring it or send it back home.
That is the meaning of guhaha in today’s world.