If I wasn’t already married to a wonderful man, then I would consider marrying….Rwanda. I have to confess that I find a country with a clear vision of what it wants to achieve, sexy!
No person is perfect, and neither is any country; but what happened to me with my husband also happened with Rwanda - I saw enough to fall in love.
I came to Rwanda in 2015, arriving two weeks before my husband. Rwanda seized the opportunity and started a courtship. It took me out, showed me its clean streets, and places for me to go running.
It made me feel safe. It told me that I could open a business if I wanted in six hours without paying a bribe. I tried it, and it turned out to be true. So far, Rwanda is an honest gentleman.
Rwanda offered me fresh air to breathe. (If it had gorgeous beaches, live music pulsating at all hours, jerk chicken, mannish water and stew peas with pig’s tail, Jamaica would have to start getting worried.)
Rwanda introduced me to its people. They were kind and helpful. They made me feel right at home. (I love the way Rwandans always say “you are welcomed” when they first meet you.)
Rwanda told me a little secret about its people - it said that they had had rough times in their past, but that was not what defined them.
Rwanda said its people are a proud people, a people with hope for a better future. And they are committed to never again going back to that past.
Then Rwanda showed me its thousand beautiful hills, its rivers and lakes. And I drove through its forest, and along its lovely countryside. While we drove, Rwanda whispered to me, “I am a little country, but I have big dreams. I am not perfect, but I am trying.” I knew right then that I was in love with this country and its people.
My mother often tells me, “Don’t believe everything that people tell you,” and “keep your eyes wide open.” In truth, I know better than to believe in everything I hear.
I know that a nicely painted wall sometimes has cracks or mold. Everything has its flaws. But this doesn’t prevent us from making our choices or from falling in love.
Rwanda wasn’t my first or only suitor. I have been to many countries on different continents. I have seen governments that work, and those that don’t. And it has saddened me to see countries with far greater resources do far less for their people.
In some places I have seen corruption both subtle and bold. And crime. Have I seen crime! Not just the petty crime that can be brushed under the carpet, but real crime that won’t be hidden.
Drug lords, extortionists, gangs better armed than the police running riot in a city. Believe it or not, I have also stood face to face with murderers, with the stench of death on their breath.
I know what it’s like in other places to constantly look over your shoulder when you are driving into your home at night, and having to quickly close the door while looking for movement in the shadows.
But there is no need to overstate this; I know we are all different, and that we all value different things. I have had dinner conversations with people who can see absolutely nothing good about Rwanda, and who speak more warmly about other countries which I believe are falling apart. Different points of view. I disagree with them, but I respect their right to their opinion.
The point is, I personally believe in this little but remarkable country. I have my business here, and I am investing here.
And I want to invite more people, particularly foreigners, to come and invest in Rwanda, for one simple reason - because I believe the best way for this country to continue to be remarkable, is if its economy continues to grow and the living conditions of its people continue to improve.
For sure, more jobs are needed, and more opportunities for those living in the rural areas. There is room to improve the quality of health and education and a wide range of public services.
I would personally like to see more investments in entertainment facilities and in diversifying the tourism product. (I think Lake Muhaze area offers tremendous long term potential for tourism.) But there are countless other areas of opportunity. Rwanda is a young market. If you get in on the ground floor, the long term payoffs can be significant.
And with the low (I still haven’t encountered any) corruption, Rwanda is even more attractive.
At some point I may need to start writing about other things but I am only recently realizing that I am in love, so for now I have to spend much time talking about my suitor.
The writer is a development consultant and owner of Forrest Jackson Relocation Services.Follow https://twitter.com/NatsCR