President Paul Kagame's recent visit to Agakiriro in Gisozi and an earlier meeting he held with the business community during the official opening of the City Hall and an adjacent commercial complex provided so many lessons to be learnt in regards to individual development, nation building and economic growth.
Paramount among the lessons is that we may have different sources of income and do different jobs, but what matters is the right mindset and the desire to do and give it our best.
On both occasions, there were quite a good number of testimonies.
Such testimonies are not alien to our ears, we have always heard them at different platforms and mediums, the only important thing to write home about is the surging numbers of the from ‘rags to riches’ stories that serve as evidence regarding the number of people we have witnessed progressively move from below the poverty line to above the poverty line and excelling to become entrepreneurs.
Again, it is neither strange nor a surprise that on many an occasion in the media, we read profiles of people that have made it in life from being hawkers, small scale farmers, retailers, shop attendants to become successful and wealthy individuals; there is a reason.
The media has led the crusade of bringing to us those exceptional individuals that have made it in life against all odds. Another platform is President Kagame’s citizen outreach tours across the country.
From both platforms we get firsthand information on those among us who have decided to do the best they can, driven by the desire of never being satisfied with simply doing what is minimally required, but always driven by the desire to succeed and even attain more.
The testimony from these individuals is in different packages, they have different backgrounds, and the demography is different, but they share the same denominator.
Along the ladder to their success, instead of being given fish, they were taught how to catch it, someone provided them with ideas and plans on how they can further their business and move from one level to another.
The government has not only sensitised them to join cooperatives but has also encouraged them to get loans, sent them abroad to learn the best practices and how suitable they are to the Rwandan setting.
Advisory councils and institutions have been created to smoothen the way. This is the true definition of a leadership that thinks about and cares for its people.
Someone preached to them the gospel of how there is strength in numbers.
How else would you define the multistoried and magnificent buildings in the Agakiriro area, formerly known as Gakinjiro, owned by men and women that formerly conducted business as individuals but are now grouped in cooperatives.
Today, they can testify to having realised success and growth of their business as a result of coming together in cooperatives.
However, forming cooperatives was not an end in itself; the refusal to wait for what well-wishers, authorities and government would put on their table (read daily bread), coupled with belief that success lies in learning how to fish than being given fish, was the biggest step on their ladder to success.
From the testimonies, it is clear that when you give people fish, you are only feeding them for a day, when you teach them how to fish you are feeding them for a lifetime.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the Government of Rwanda continues to design strategies and implement policies that are aimed at equipping people with the right knowledge and skills thus putting their destiny in their hands.
This approach serves as one of the major differences between the current leadership and the past regimes.
The past regimes – pre- and post-colonialism – did not believe in empowering Rwandans but rather preferred giving them ‘fish for a day than teaching them how to fish.’
From the success stories of Rwandans in rural areas to our urban businesses, it is clear that in Rwanda, making it in life and contributing towards national development is not about how much money you earn or have, it is about ideas. Our financial institutions have never fallen short of funds to support bankable projects, what is needed is ideas and sounding plans.