Rwanda is on it’s way to creating a productive middle class and foster entrepreneurship, so that in the long run… the backbone of the process should be a middle class of Rwandan entrepreneurs that perform its traditional role of creating wealth, employment and vital innovations through opportunities for profit.’ This is the crux of vision 2020.
The pivotal role of entrepreneurs in the vision is quite clear from the above and could not possibly be underestimated.
The question is where we get such a critical mass of entrepreneurs to act as development catalysts. There are the usual ways; encourage foreign investors, give tax breaks and tax havens and all that.
But there is also anther potentially powerful way encouraging and indeed forming an entrepreneurial culture among the youth. Think of it; who is going to run the country in the next decade or so?
The good news is that a quick survey reveals that some of our universities such as Rwanda Tourism University, Kigali Institute of Education and Kigali Health Institute among others have seen this and have begun teaching entrepreneurship as a unit or course. I salute them.
The not so good news is that this has to be a formation process that should affect the thinking patterns and if not approached practically, it would lead to cosmetic change if any. The approach should be practical and hands-on. It should be a collaborative process between the private and public sectors.
Rwanda Development Board should champion this process. It should support both the formal and informal programs. Business incubation as well as support to the universities by way of further training, provision of seed capital, encouraging liaison with businesses and the academic sector in this endeavor.
Business associations should act as platforms for this. Corporate strategy should also be shaped such that corporate social responsibility projects are geared towards this.
Rwanda Revenue Authority can chip in by giving tax breaks on investment in this area so as to encourage the rest of us to invest in our young people. Banks could also come with credit facilities geared towards encouraging business start ups by youth.
It would be good business for everyone if done well. Who says that due diligence excuses us from being creative?
The press needs to highlight opportunities here and in the region.
The content, analysis and opinions’ need to be geared towards promoting this growth and development agenda and the success stories coming from the various youth business projects.
Let us use the following analogy to further understand what the entrepreneurial mindset we should have: The sultan of Persia had sentenced two men to death. One of them, knowing how much the sultan loved his stallion, offered to teach the horse to fly within a year in return for his life.
The sultan, fancying himself as the rider of the only flying horse in the world, agreed. The other prisoner looked at his friend in disbelief. “You know that horses don’t fly.
What made you come up with a crazy idea like that? You are only postponing the inevitable”. “Not so”, said the first prisoner. I have given myself four chances for freedom.
The sultan might die, He (the prisoner might die), the horse might die, He might teach the horse to fly. We need to enable our youth to teach ‘horses to fly.
Sam Kebongo consults for Serian Consult.