Kigali is arguably one of the most expensive cities in East and Central Africa. Being expensive is not the point of contention here, but rather, the cause of this phenomenon.
Uganda and Burundi are both landlocked nations just like Rwanda, but it would cost you half as much as you would need to live in Kigali for the same duration and under the same conditions in Kampala and Bujumbura. Yet Rwandan currency is even far stronger than that of both Burundi and Uganda.
But when you ask different people the reason for this, everyone will give you a different theory. Business people will tell you that commodities and services are more expensive in Kigali because of Rwanda Revenue Authority’s ruthlessness when it comes to taxing.
Others will tell you that the reason is because Rwanda’s commodities and services are expensive because Rwanda is landlocked and has to import almost everything from abroad, and when they come, they pass through different borders before they arrive. But of all, perhaps this is the most ridiculous theory.
When you talk of commodities passing through different borders as a reason for commodities being expensive, you wonder why this does not apply to Burundi whose commodities pass through more borders than Rwanda, some through our own territory, yet cost almost half what they cost in Kigali.
This is a question that everyone keeps asking but no tangible answer seems to be forthcoming. But recently a senior member of government told me something that sounded convincing in a way, if at least compared to the other theories. According to him, the lifestyles of Rwandans, and their penchant for class are to blame. It’s quite true that Rwandans like to live beyond their means. “A young businessman wakes up one day and makes a few millions.
The next logical thing that will come into his head will be buying a very expensive car that will emphasise his new status. But because he will have to struggle to maintain his status, its we the consumers who are going to suffer the consequences,” he says
This propensity to live big when our means don’t allow is what seems to be pushing prices in Kigali sky high.
Otherwise what explanation would anyone give for people crying that their businesses will soon collapse because they are being over taxed but won’t resist the temptation to purchase the latest and most expensive cars on the world market? But the tendency is not in business alone.
There have been cases where young graduates grumble because of disparity in remuneration between them and their seniors, yet there was no difference in ‘academic qualifications.’ And mind you, the seniors they are talking about are people with more than twenty years of experience who are supposed to actually help them shape their professional careers.
All this comes from this innate inclination to live big, even before we are able to do so. Once a young Rwandan graduate gets a job, all they start dreaming about is cruising a car as expensive as that driven by Will Smith, dining and wining in Serena and rubbing shoulders with the cream of Kigali City.
Well, not that dreaming and achieving one’s dreams is bad at all. The concern is, how sustainable is the life you are living? It would be unfortunate to live an artificial lifestyle today, only to see everything collapsing on top of you before you know what is happening.
This is what leads people into malpractices like corruption, embezzlement and theft. Once people get responsibilities they take this as an opportunity to achieve their lifetime dreams. But for lack of patience, they end up wanting to get rich quick and in the process get tempted to steal.
The problem is that we want to live big yet we are giving little to this cause. Young Rwandans want to sleep and wake up rich, living like Kings without meriting it. This has something to do with upbringing too.
“I was born in an affluent family but I am lucky that our father discouraged us from being lazy. He always encouraged us to work hard and build our own lives and desist from trying to relax just because we had everything we wanted,” says an official who inspired me into writing on this topic. He says that he is also trying to drum these values into his own children since he has found them quite useful for anyone’s life.
“One time my son asked me why we were not living in a storied house like some of his classmates. I asked him how he would love to live in a storied house and forego school because then I would not afford to pay for his school fees.
Luckily, he got the logic and has never asked any such silly question again. Since then whenever we go for shopping together, when he picks something from the stalls he asks me first whether I have the money to pay for it,” he says. It’s not bad at all to let children live comfortably, but its good to encourage them to think about life after the support of their parents.
This is the main reason why many children from rich families end up as delinquents in their adulthood or after the demise of their parents. Some fail in school and drop out. Childhood guidance is the most vital aspect in the shaping of any society. Let’s try to cut on our lavish expenditure this year, and you will surely vindicate me come 2009. Happy New Year.
The writer is a communications officer in the Ministry of Health