Humans are experts at packing a lot of meaning in a few words and passing them on to successive generations far beyond where they were first coined.
They become part of our collective received wisdom. I do not know of anyone who has copyright to what are commonly known as sayings, adages or proverbs.
Take this example, ‘who dares wins’. It is not quite common, doesn’t even sound clever – but so do they all. Common sense is what gives them power.
This particular one is used to inspire people to be bold, do the unusual, excel at what they are doing and therefore achieve great things. This is the spirit behind success in any innovative business the world over.
In recent times, Rwanda seems to have made it its own, without, of course, using these words. While not inventing anything new, Rwandans have become experts in doing the unorthodox, not sticking to convention and refusing to live to the expectations of others.
In plain language, this is called daring, and in today’s world, only those who dare win.
We have just learnt that drones are coming here to transport stuff (initially, medical drugs) around the country, in much the same way as bicycles and pick-up trucks do.
Drone ports where they will be taking off and landing will soon be constructed, and that this is the first place in Africa where they will be doing such work.
Obviously, this is an innovation. Most Rwandans don’t know what these mosquito-like contraptions are or what they are capable of doing. For most of them, the very idea might even sound like something from another planet.
Those with any idea of drones know them as deadly things which track terrorists, like Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, to their hiding places and take them out of action as they are having dinner or enjoying some other pleasurable activity.
Sometimes, they hit wedding parties as well and take out innocent people.
This is not the first time that drones coming to this region have been mentioned. A few years ago, we heard about them in connection with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its intractable rebellions in the east of the country.
They were then supposed to be used to patrol the border with Rwanda, presumably to prevent the supposedly meddlesome Rwandans from causing mischief in the lawless region.
That proposition caused some apprehension and even opposition. Questions were asked: What are they coming to do? Is it just to patrol or is there another sinister motive? The fears were only stilled when President Paul Kagame said: “what’s the problem? Let them come.” I don’t know if they ever did.
But now they will soon be here, on a totally different mission – saving lives, not cutting them short. They will be here as angels of mercy, not harbingers of death.
At any rate, although not their inventors, we will be happy to be the first to use drones in this innovative manner in our region. In the process, we will get to know them better and even learn to like them.
Luckily, there have been no misgivings or scepticism about the use of these pilotless machines to lift medicines from hill to hill. Only curiosity and a little bafflement about how much they can carry perhaps persists.
It has not been like another time when we were introduced to technology that we were not quite used to and which some even thought was unsuitable at our stage of development. Maybe we are now used to the idea of trying new things.
A little over ten years ago, computers and the internet were introduced in our schools. That was met with opposition. There were many arguments against the new move.
It is not realistic in our circumstances. We don’t even have books and now we are bringing computers. There is no electricity to power the computers, so what is the point? The money would be better spent on programmes to alleviate poverty. This simply won’t work...among other excuses.
Well, the programme has worked so well, no one remembers those initial arguments against it. It has worked so well that it has become a model other countries come to learn from.
There is another policy option that attracted similar misgivings. Rwanda was the first country in the East African region to waive work permit requirements for citizens of the East African Community.
Fears were expressed about the country being flooded by people from other countries and taking jobs of locals. Nothing of the sort has happened. In fact, skills gaps still exist in many areas.
Earlier, the government of Rwanda and donors had different views on public investment in certain fields. The government wanted to put money in building a five-star hotel.
Donors thought that was not a wise decision. Government went ahead and built the Intercontinental Hotel (now Kigali Serena) and then sold it. There was no loss.
It was the same story with the adoption of Gacaca to try thousands of people accused of committing genocide against the Tutsi.
Another saying, learnt from the English proves the point about being bold, trying new things as long as they produce results. They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, In this case, the proof of daring is in the winning.