These are good times for Rwanda. We can now afford to forget the ranting of mad professors and ignore the arrogant prescriptions of foreigners (they do not work anyway). We can politely disregard the unsolicited advice of experts, analysts and all manner of pundits – some of it well-meaning, most of it ignorant or arrogant. There are things happening here that call for celebration.
The biggest of these new happenings (well, not actually new) is this year’s World Bank Doing Business ranking. For the second year running, Rwanda is way up there – first last year and second this year – among the countries making the greatest improvements in doing business reforms. This is no mean feat.
It becomes even more monumental when one looks at Rwanda’s performance in the last five years. We have moved from 158 to 58 out of 183 countries in that period.
I am sure this good news will make some people choke on a mixture of emotions. Anger, envy, hatred and disbelief will vie for prominence and cloud their already overcast judgements. They will think of excuses to explain away the unwelcome news.
It is a bubble; it will burst, they will say. A bubble with such consistency cannot burst. Or they will say: Yes they are making tremendous progress but there is no matching development in democracy. But the universal verdict is that the consistent high ranking cannot be reached without good governance.
It is not the ranking alone that is significant, however. The significance lies in the fact that the ranking translates into more investment as the risks are much reduced which should lead to more business and better lives for Rwandans.
In any case who cares about the bad-mannered refusal to accept the evidence of your eyes? We will toast anyway. In case they have not noticed, this is becoming a habit. And at the rate at which we must celebrate, we will run the wine cellars dry. But that too is good for business.
Hot on the heels of the doing business good news was the premiere in Kigali of the film, Africa United, starring young Rwandans. The film portrays the dogged determination, perseverance and survival instincts of the young people as they make their way to the finals of the football world cup in South Africa. No setbacks will deter them; no amount of frustration will dissuade them; no barriers are insurmountable in their quest to be part of the great sporting event.
They are sustained by the solidarity and enduring friendship they build. Theirs is a story of human warmth and possibilities, of challenges and successful responses to them. Their story mirrors that of Rwanda.
At the individual level, the film marks the birth of actors who are bound to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry and perhaps become stars. At the collective level, they will certainly do the image and profile of Rwanda a lot of good. Another toast.
It is not in business-related matters alone that we are making progress. Very recently, Rwanda received the Green Globe Award for the restoration of the Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo wetland in northern Rwanda. The wetland had been damaged by clearing, livestock and overharvesting.Conservation measures have now returned it to its pristine state.
Again, the significance of the restoration of the wetland is not in the act itself. It is in the balance between ecological concerns and socio-economic development needs.
Ecologically, the wetland has global significance. It is a corridor for migratory birds and fish and habitat to many species of animals and plants, some of them endangered. Economically, it is a water reservoir for generating electricity for thousands of Rwandans. Its restoration and continued exploitation are evidence of sustainable development and management of natural resources. We are not developing at the expense of the environment.
The restoration of the Rugezi wetland is one of many environmental conservation projects going on around the country. Anyone who has been driving along our roads lately will have noticed huge works to build storm drains that will save our roads and channel run-off water into marshlands to replenish water in them.
Yesterday was tree planting day – one of the most successful country-wide environmental protection efforts that should earn another award.
In an integrated environmental conservation and tourist management effort, the national tourism office recently inaugurated the canopy walk bridge in Nyungwe forest. Now, those who have not seen it, this is a swinging footbridge hanging high up in the tall trees of the forest, tens of metres above the ground – literally on top of the world.
It is not for the faint-hearted. But nor was it created for romantics or to test the bravery of individuals. The bridge has a dual purpose: to afford visitors to the forest the best view of the birds, other wild life and plants, and at the same time protect the flora and fauna of the place from trampling by hordes of humans walking through the forest in search of adventure and the exotic.
I have heard some obscure young man claim to lead a green party, but I must confess I have never heard him say anything concerning green issues. He whines about all sorts of things, usually to foreigners, but not once about green things.
With all that is happening in Rwanda in matters green, it is understandable why he steers clear of them. He has nothing to say because it has all been done.
Can he or anyone else hold it against us if we are inclined to celebrate our green achievements? Is there anyone who can halt the march to prosperity? None, I dare say. More and better things lie ahead and there will be more to celebrate.