If you think our work ethic is alright, then you need a check- up at the Largest Hospital in town. This might wake you up to reality once you realise that nurses and doctors are talking to you like a shepherd addressing some goats gone astray.
You will perhaps be sobered up by the experience and you will begin to wonder whether you are in this country indeed or you are in some remote part of the tropical rain forest. You will perhaps come out shouting at the top of your voice “some one needs to do something!”
If you are not convinced then go for a quick lunch at one of the restaurants in town. The waiter appears next to your table, looking so gloomy, it may seem like both you and the waiter have a wrongful death case in court, where the claimant is the waiter and you being the respondent.
The waiter will begin by pointing out that the buffet is set up on your left hand side, while asking you in the vilest tone that you’ve ever heard, as to what drink you would like to drink.
If you still don’t believe me, try to seek an appointment with a bank manager, a director of some enterprise. The experience will be more than sobering and you will wish you had not asked to see the manager.
Worse still try asking to see a manager when you think your loan application is being deliberately delayed, then you might experience what a suspected “snitch” in a gang of robbers experiences when they ask about the next plans.
You need not sample more, the only exception in the government institutions are Immigration and RDB to some extent. In the case of immigration, by the time you get there you will have had all the information posted on their website, if for some reason they have not posted the changes at least they will explain to you what you ought to do.
RDB seems to be thriving in chaos, despite the confusion and the intermittent changes and counter changes to documents, forms and procedure; they seem to be able to work miracles. Despite the chaos, they have had some measure of success in turning around registration in twenty four hours in majority of the cases.
If we were in some oil rich African country or Arabian Gulf state, we need not worry about our work ethic or Customer Service to those who prefer using business jargon. We would not need to worry about many a thing, like in the case of the gulf state we would hire external labour to worry about customer service. If we wanted to behave like the oil rich state, we would throw our dignity through the window, equip a ruthless militia and enrich a few.
But this is Rwanda, a place where our major endowment is its people, not oil, not gold, diamonds or cobalt or other high value minerals, yes we have some, but not plenty. Our main asset is the people, which is what we mean by “a knowledgeable society” driving “a knowledge based economy.”
Knowledge though, is a property of a good work ethic; it thrives on continuous learning that emanates from an inquisitorial character adopted for learning and amassing knowledge.
The knowledge acquisition process involves more than hours spent glued on books and a mass of literature. It involves building networks and social covenants that involve learning and exchange of critical information.
This is why good ethic or customer service as it is commonly known is critical for Rwanda in achieving its Vision 2020 goals. An IT engineer will find customer experience feed back invaluable in developing and improving their product.
This is only possible if the customer feels they have been fairly treated. The same with a medical doctor, they will be able to learn disease dynamics from patients who feel it is worth talking to a doctor. Other programmes such as fighting crime and community service depend on good work ethic of the practitioners.
If people have to leave their insurance cards at hospital receptions because the Hospital staff are unfamiliar with the contract between the insurance company and the Hospital, how do you expect them to trust hospital staff to deliver on their promise?
They will not and may never. As the popular saying goes “Satify ten customers and they tell no one, disappoint one and they tell a million others.” This seems to be a common thing with service providers; my phone company expects me to go and ask them to bill so that I can pay them, the city council will fine for not paying rates on time yet they could not raise an invoice for me on time, while some like the Post Office have run out of ideas.
Why? The answer is simple; our poor work ethic is a direct product of our poor attitude towards learning. People still say they completed school at the end of high school and there goes their reading habits if they had any at all.
People hardly read, if you sent a ten page document to a loans officer, it takes more than three weeks before they can respond, and the response will be a stark confirmation that the recipients neither read nor had the capacity to understand the document.
When they realise that you will not be taken for a ride, then they begin to invoke some outdated legal provision that were repealed a while ago. Because I don’t read and I am averse to reading, I will not make an effort to research and read about banking laws in force.
Eventually, I will give up and the guilty party will be vindicated. If I go to his boss, the boss either has no time or is a direct replica of his subordinate.
If we don’t read we don’t learn, and if we don’t learn we cannot act from a knowledge standpoint. If people develop a sound reading habit, then their learning process will be geared up and their knowledge uptake will increase tremendously. As a consequence, people’s work ethic will improve and productivity or output will improve.
If for instance lawyers start reading briefs, write good affidavit and read them, read case laws and journals, they will be able to argue cases better in courts and people will find it worthwhile to hire a lawyer rather than argue their case for themselves. It needs no saying that the fees will increase, the exchequer will draw in more taxes or will prosecute more lawyers evading taxes meaning more work for lawyers either way.
In its basic form a “knowledge based economy” is an exporter of services, read expertise. It refers to the use of knowledge technologies such as knowledge engineering and knowledge management to produce economic benefits such as creation of jobs through innovations and export growth.
Suffice to say therefore that our prospects for achieving Vision 2020 hinges on our ability to change our attitude towards work and therefore our work ethic. If we have to create an additional two million jobs in the year 2020, then we need first of all to start working on our feet, we need to do more and not enough.
In the business of creating wealth, you cannot afford to do enough; in essence you do the impossible and work miracles. You don’t work miracles on your back; you need to be on your feet.
Emmanuel Murangira is a Development Economist and Development Practitioner.